High Cortisol Levels Were Ruining My Sleep (and Life)

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About a year ago I started noticing some changes in how my body was feeling every day. It was harder for me to wake up in the morning and stay awake throughout the day. I was struggling with constant fatigue and lack of motivation, so I started researching different causes for these symptoms. 

I don’t advise asking Google why you’re tired all the time, but I kept coming across cortisol levels and had a feeling I should look into it. I have not gotten any blood work done to confirm my suspicion yet, but after taking a few steps to improve cortisol levels, I believe I’ve noticed a difference in how I feel. 

What causes high cortisol levels? 

There are multiple factors that cause high cortisol levels. The list is long, but here are a few of the most common causes:

  1. Falling asleep looking at your phone or waking up to scroll Instagram are very bad habits for cortisol. Everyone knows staring at a screen is bad for your eyes, but seriously, it is messing up your body’s natural sleep cycle. If you haven’t heard this, check out this article.
  2. Stress is a major contributor to heightened cortisol levels. 
  3. Drinking too much alcohol can make it harder for your body to regulate cortisol levels. 

How does cortisol impact sleep?

High Cortisol levels disrupt the sleep-wake cycle in people. My body was getting confused about when it needed to fall asleep and when it needed to wake up. Even once I finally fell asleep, I was never having a restful night’s sleep. My mom gave me her Fitbit for me to easily track my sleep and I was consistently receiving “bad” quality sleep scores. I was getting very little REM sleep and constantly waking up throughout the night.

Here’s What I Have Done to Improve My Cortisol Levels

Established a Nighttime Routine 

I wrote a whole article about this! I have been prioritizing my evening routine to let my body know it is time to start winding down. It has helped me fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer. 

Cut the Caffeine 

In March, I went completely caffeine-free. It was hard at first, but I definitely noticed a difference in how well I was sleeping. Now, I’ve reintroduced a little bit of caffeine, but I mostly drink black tea in the morning or treat myself to a half-caff latte on the weekends. 

Managed Stress 

Adrenal Cocktails 

Adding in an adrenal cocktail helps the Adrenal Glands do their jobs a little better. Here is a popular recipe 

  • ½ cup orange juice
  • ½ cup coconut water
  • pinch sea salt


I’ve started supplementing with Wooden Spoon Herbs Anxiety Ally to help keep me calm during stressful work days or social events

Decreased Alcohol Consumption 

Alcohol can disrupt cortisol regulation so I’ve been cutting back on drinking and only indulging for special occasions. 

Working Out

The biggest impact of working out is the stress relief it brings to me. Having an hour a day where I’m active lets my mind think through the day or forget about any worries. I have noticed a decrease in my overall stress levels from this. 

Try it out!

If any of this made you question your own cortisol levels, try making a few switches in your daily routine and see if your sleep improves. If it does, you may have high cortisol levels. As always, I recommend seeing a doctor for any expert advice. I am thankful I took the steps to figure out that cortisol was affecting my sleep.