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Is the 3am cortisol spike disturbing your sleep quality?

Do you wake up at 3am every night and struggle to get back to sleep?

You’re not alone, according to research and sleep specialists, this is a common occurrence and known as “overnight awakenings”. One study found that a third of us wake up in the middle of the night three or more times a week.

But the good news is, there’s nothing to worry about, its completely normal, as long as you’re able to get back to sleep afterwards, and specialists have said that most people in fact wake up in the night, but do not remember it.

However, if your sleep quality is poor due to these overnight awakenings, it’s worth looking into  why this occurs, and for many it’s the 3am cortisol spike.

Cortisol, best known as a stress hormone, plays a huge part in our sleep patterns,  Scientists have found that cortisol levels naturally begin to rise in the body about 2-3am.  For those with normal cortisol levels, this would then rise slowly and take you through to  morning waking you up at your normal waking time.  However, for those who are suffering from stress, anxiety or worry, the cortisol level is already raised, so the natural rise at 2-3am causes your body’s sympathetic nervous system kicks into gear, the increase in heart rate and blood pressure also may make it harder to fall back asleep.  

But what can you do to avoid these 3am wake up calls, and get better quality sleep?

Here’s a few tips to help you lower your cortisol levels at for bedtime.

  1. Regular exercise is proven to reduce stress levels, improve sleep quality and overall mental health conditions. Regular work outs on our Vasper’s can help reduce cortisol levels and improve overall sleep quality.
  2. Eat a well balanced diet, lots of whole foods.  Don’t go to bed with a full stomach (or empty).  Your body struggles to digest food laying down, but eating too early and going to bed hungry can also have issues.  If you eat your last meal quite early in the evening, try a small (under 250 calorie) snack 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime  – something light like an apple with nut butter, something without too much processed sugar.
  3. Avoid caffeine too much caffeine late in the day
  4. Shift your sleep cycle.  Try a sleep monitoring device to determine your sleep cycles, and adjust your bed time and see if that helps.
  5. Medications – if you are on any supplements or medications, check with your GP if these could be effecting your sleep, adjust the time you take the medication (where possible) and see if that makes a difference
  6. Avoid napping during the day
  7. Get lots of light exposure during the day.
  8. For women, nocturnal awakenings can be a common sign of perimenopause and menopause. Speak to your GP about options

You can read more about Cortisol here:

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