The Importance of Sleep for Adrenal Health

If you have adrenal fatigue like me, or know someone who does, getting up before 9 a.m. can often be painful. As far back as high school I joked about not being “a morning person”. Staying up late at night was easy for me, but mornings were so bad that in college I scheduled all classes after 2 p.m. Seriously, I did.  I would be a zombie until around noon. People thought I was lazy, I thought I was lazy. But my brain just didn’t function in the morning, so I did what my body was telling. And you know, my body was pretty darn smart, thank you.

Even as a adult it was painful to wake up before 9 AM. I admired early-risers and longed to be one, having a strange idea that morning people are good people. Only the lure of coffee would pull me from the comatose state of sleep.  The idea of waking up at 6 a.m. actually made me panic. If I woke up before 9 a.m., I could easily drink two cups of coffee and go right back to sleep for hours.  Curiously though, if I slept until about 9 a.m. I could pop right out of bed awake and alert.  This always seemed odd, but apparently, there are lots of people out there like me!

Anyone who has chronic illness will understand you lead a secret life, arranging your business hours around rest opportunities and finding excuses for missing social events – Lynne Farrow, author The Iodine Crisis

Then I started learning about Adrenal Fatigue and how cortisol runs our body clock. So my sleep pattern wasn’t a matter of choice after all. What a revelation! According to James L. Wilson, Ph.D, Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, though most people’s schedules do not allow it, it helps to sleep until 8:30 or 9 in the morning.

Wilson also writes, for people with normal functioning adrenals, cortisol rises rapidly between 6-8 am, which helps them to pop out of bed.  (And explains why some people can’t sleep past a certain time.)  Further, there is something magical about the restorative power of sleep between 7-9 a.m. for people with Adrenal Fatigue. Partly, he says, because cortisol levels rise slower in people with adrenal fatigue, and when cortisol levels are lower it takes longer to feel fully awake. Wilson also explains that with adrenal fatigue, when you sleep may be more important than how much you sleep.

Finally something that made sense after all these years!  After getting treatment for Adrenal Fatigue, my Cortisol levels have become more normal, so waking up is much easier. In fact, I can get up at 7:45 a.m and actually function these days. But given the chance, I sleep late without guilt, knowing it will help me tackle the day with energy. Brilliant.


Miss LizzyThe Importance of Sleep for Adrenal Health

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  • J. G. Oliver - April 21, 2010

    Wow Lizzy, once again you’ve described me to a "T"! I can hardly ever rise before 9am, and when I do I’m wrecked for the rest of the day! Did you also find that you were most awake after 6pm? I really don’t like being a night owl at all, but I always have been. Hopefully that will change if I can get the adrenals taken care of (I did ask to join the Yahoo group for adrenal fatigue patients). Thanks for getting the word out;; hopefully others will realize that they really aren’t "lazy"!

  • Lizzy - April 22, 2010

    Hi JG,Wow, you are the same way, that’s amazing! I think its more common than we realize which is why I wanted to write about it. The more we know, the more we can forgive ourselves and do what works best for us. And for me sometimes that means sleeping until 10 and saying the heck with it!Definitely, I wake up after 6 p.m. which I hear is pretty common due to Cortisol. My guess is that this happens for a few reasons; after the 3 – 5 p.m. Cortisol dip we all get a dinner time energy boost, and for Hypothyroid people, our body temps are at the warmest in the afternoon. But it takes us all day to heat up, so naturally it seems logical that nighttime is best for us. But Cortisol has peaks and valleys through the day and night which is why often I am tired by 9:30 p.m., but if I stay up until 10:30 or 11 p.m. I get a second wind and can’t fall asleep until 1 or 2! I would lie in bed wondering why I couldn’t sleep, now I know, Cortisol!Have you started the HC? Curious to hear how its going for you!

  • J. G. Oliver - April 22, 2010

    I just started HC today after doing the temp test for several days. My temps are running between 96.1-98.3 all day, up and down. I got my doctor to prescribe Cortef (sp?), but he wants me to continue on Armour while I take it. I don’t plan on following that advice because I’ve gotten much sicker since starting the Armour, and a friend told me that that’s because my adrenals are such a mess that the T3 is "pooling" in my blood.Yep, I also get a "second wind" between 10-11 pm, then don’t shut down until 3am! I used to always think that it was just a bad habit picked up in art school, or that being a night owl is just synonymous with being a freelance artist-but now I know the real reason!Jen

  • Lizzy - April 22, 2010

    I agreed with your friend about T3 pooling, at least I think that happened to me before starting the HC. From what I have read some people ease back a little on the thyroid meds (but stay on them) while taking the HC (which is what I did).And a note about Armour, which maybe you’ve read on STTM, after the reformulation last year a lot of us had trouble with the new one. My body started to go crazy. So I switched to Naturthroid (by RLC Labs) and that’s been going great for me. So if you aren’t feeling well, it might be the thyroid meds.For a while Naturthroid was hard to find due to the huge demand but its easier now. And there is a mail order pharmacy called Clarks in Arizona that stocks it (480) 488-2007. My doctor called the prescription in to them and it was at my door within 3-4 days. You are doing so great, I am really excited for you!!Lizzy

  • Kelli - August 25, 2010

    I always knew there must be a reason for my sleepy mornings. You're so right, it's painful – rising too early gives me headaches which last all day. Thanks for the article!

  • Lizzy - August 25, 2010

    You are very welcome! When I first learned about this it changed my whole view of the world. And my attitude about myself. xxooLizzy

  • Diane - December 7, 2011

    Wow. So far you're 2 for 2 today (please see my other post)! I'm at half power all day if I have to work a morning shift (6-3), but do fine on any other. I have often joked about doing my house chores at 11:00 at night, but it's true that I get a surge of energy then, and usually stay up until 1:00 in the morning. I have GOT to get tested for adrenal/cortisol problems…Thanks, Lizzy! P.S. I'm also going to start changing my diet to more proteins and fats, and try naturthroid.

  • Monica - February 26, 2012

    I found out I had adrenal fatigue last fall. We had 3 kids in 4 yrs and it has just about ruined my body. I too was like you in high school and college… easy to stay up late, hard to wake up early. I almost always skipped my 8 am classes (agreeing that I just must not care enough, etc). I've also never had much ease with dropping weight. always just a little pudgy. and my weight has gone up quite a bit since having the kids. I weigh 30-40 lbs more than I did in high school. 🙁 Anyway, I just found out about Hypothyroidism type 2 by reading a blog by the CheeseSlave. It is both me and my husband to a T !! We changed our eating habits a lot about 18 months ago – when we found out about the Weston A Price foundation (love it), and even gut-flora and probiotic foods. Cutting out processed foods and adding lots of probiotics cleared up just about most all of my depression/moodswings… but then I ended up getting too low-carb when we were eating grain-free for about 9 months to help gut-health (and I am a carbohydrate type) … which led to an increase in Adrenal Fatigue. So, I added back whole grains. Its going well. Adrenals have recovered a bit. But any of my health problems that I feels are lingering … are without a doubt because of my thyroid and adrenals. Thanks for this site. can't wait to read more … and get on iodine, desiccated thyroid, and continue with the adrenal supplements. I have loved the life-style changes since learning about how stress actually really does impact our bodies/adrenals/health/etc. I used to be a bit of a perfectionist – and I have really learned to just chill-out. yay! Loved the Adrenal Fatigue book, too. Thanks!

  • cp - September 27, 2013

    wow I was just researching this after reading another article about how I should exercise in the morning, producing more guilt about how I just CAN'T get up early enough to do that and make it work on time. I've had this problem all my life and thought it would get better since being on thyroid meds. I wonder if my endo will have this figured out in my next visit.

  • sandy - January 9, 2014

    I went to the dr. Tues. and we think adrenal fatigue. I take Armour and my tsh is .49 (.35-4.94)range. Dr said this is t4 is .77(.70-1.48) I have had such horrible dizziness for over a week now. my dad had an injury 3 weeks ago and the stress has taken its toll on me. the anxiety has sky rocketed and we are due to take our vacation in 10 days. so naturally I am getting so nervous that I will not be able to go. and that adds to the extra anxiety. the confusion has also added to my stress. I can not think and get so mixed up.. Do any of you use a tanning salon? (I was hoping to use a few times before we vacation) Does this add to the stress on the adrenals? what can be a quick fix for me so I feel well to go? right now the way I feel I would not go and lose out on the costs. any advice for me

  • Lizzy - January 9, 2014

    Hi Sandy, if it were me, I would try to do whatever I could to minimize stress (I know, easier said than done!). This means sleep as much as you can. Eat healthy. Ask others for more help. Just know your limits. Some people have a strange reaction to the thyroid medicine if they have an underlying adrenal problem. Here is some info from Stop the Thyroid Madness…. it were me, and I were about to go on vacation, I would consider trying vitamin C to see if it helped. If you search online you can find information but here is an article… importance here is to continue taking the vitamin C, don't take a lot and then stop immediately. I would probably also try to meditate every day. And perhaps listen to 432 hx music which I have read has healing qualities. after vacation I would try to fully investigate adrenal fatigue. Of course, please remember this is not to replace the advice of your doctor.xo! Lizzy!

  • Frank Rumbauskas - July 10, 2015

    THANK YOU for posting this! All my life I’ve been an night owl and have had extreme difficulty getting up early, or at least getting up early with a clear head. I never understood people who would say they get up early because morning is the quietest time of day to get work done before everyone else is up – for me that just means being foggy-headed and unable to think clearly.

    I’ve read multiple books on circadian rhythms thinking that I was just born with an odd rhythm, even a book about how to change it with a “circadian diet.” Then a few months ago we joined a concierge medical practice after Obamacare wrecked our health insurance. The doctors there are MUCH MUCH better than the norm. After hearing about my difficulties waking up he ran a thyroid panel along with the standard labs and sure enough, I’m hypothyroid. Upon seeing that he sent me home with a cortisol saliva kit, and bingo, early-stage adrenal fatigue!!

    I’m now on 60mg Armour (up from 30mg for 2 months with no results) and he sent me to see the people at Crucial Four, a maker of adaptogen/herbal remedies to get me on an adrenal recovery program. I just started that a couple of weeks ago and although I don’t feel a difference yet, my wife has commented more than once that i seem more energetic and overall happier since starting (we’re ramping that up slowly – for now it’s just a morning breakfast shake based on a mixture of their ingredients).

    It’s a relief to see a site like yours after years of judgment of being “lazy” for getting up late. At one point I even quit a business roundtable group that I loved just because they meet at 7:30am and I would feel miserable all day and even have to take Xanax for the extreme anxiety that getting up at 6am would cause me. I re-joined the group after starting Armour and am having an easier time with it now, and can even get through the day without crashing at my desk by 2pm! Oddly, I actually feel better on those days, but I still sleep until at least 8am the other 6 days of the week which is when I tend to wake naturally.

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