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Wired and Tired? Learn About Cortisol Effects on Health

Hormone Circuit Neuroaffect Circuit

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Carrie Lam, MD; Jeremy Lam, MD

What Does It Mean to Feel Wired and Tired

A man reading a study about cortisol and stress effects.In this article you will have the opportunity to learn the truth about cortisol.  Some individuals often feel wired and tired, and completely incapable of relaxing. Despite removing themselves from stressful situations, it may still feel impossible to calm down and unwind. Common relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, may have no effect. No matter what they try, their body refuses to shut down and let go. This article is about cortisol and the effects of chronic stress, looks at why this happens to some people and how these symptoms could be associated with adrenal fatigue.

Despite the fact that this articles focus is about cortisol, that is not the only concern that can influence sleep.  You may want to be assessed for adrenal fatigue if you are constantly wired and tired throughout the day, and are often unable to fall asleep at night. For those suffering from this condition, it can be very challenging to fall asleep even after a long and tiresome day. When the individual finally does fall asleep, it may also be difficult to feel fully rested despite sleeping sufficient hours.
This can be very devastating to one's personal life. Mundane tasks can become very challenging, and enjoyment of previous passions and social events may slowly dwindle. Perhaps the most frustrating aspect is the sense of helplessness, of downing caffeine and energy drinks to no avail, of not understanding why the fatigue exists or how to get rid of it.

About Cortisol, Stress, and Fatigue

These issues can generally be traced back to stress. The body’s way of coping with stress is to produce more cortisol via the adrenal glands. However, if one experiences too much stress (especially for long periods of time), these excess cortisol levels end up weakening the adrenal glands, and consequently, end up undermining hormone production.

In the early stages of adrenal fatigue, the body is able to compensate well, and symptoms may not be very noticeable. However, in the more advanced stages of adrenal fatigue, the body’s coping mechanisms become imbalanced. Due to the fact that hormones regulate many bodily functions, such as energy and blood sugar levels, this imbalance causes a disruption in the body’s natural state. One of the most noticeable impacts is the slowing down of cortisol production, which can lead to fatigue and an inability to handle stress.

To make up for this, the body activates the sympathetic system, part of the neuroaffective response. The neuroaffective response is mediated by the sympathetic nervous system, the central nervous system and digestive system as a survival mechanism to deal with stress, releasing norepinephrine throughout the body. This release gives the body a jolt of energy to respond to stress factors. However, because it interacts with the central nervous system, it can also increase your heart rate and anxiety levels. Even when your body is exhausted and out of energy, the continuous flow of norepinephrine will keep you alert, resulting in the wired and tired feeling.

Healthy vs. Unhealthy Cortisol Levels

Sleep can be interrupted by chronic stress. Learn more about cortisolEvery single day, the adrenal glands are working in the body. In a healthy adrenal system, cortisol levels will reach their maximum in the morning. This increase helps to stimulate and wake you up. As the day progresses, cortisol levels slowly drop. As cortisol levels go down, your body is able to relax and unwind so that you can go to sleep. Essentially, cortisol helps people maintain awareness when they need to be awake, and promotes fatigue when they need to be asleep. Healthy cortisol levels makes it easier to uphold regular sleeping cycles and a well-rested psyche.

Of course, for those experiencing adrenal fatigue, adrenal glands are not producing appropriate levels of cortisol. If your body is under large amounts of stress on a continuous basis, your adrenal glands are essentially producing cortisol all the time. As a consequence of this lack of proper regulation, cortisol levels tend to fluctuate throughout the day. The constant stress creates adrenal fatigue, which perpetuates the problem because the adrenal glands are not able to produce as much cortisol as is needed for the body to function at its optimal level.

Stages and Symptoms of Low Cortisol

In the early stages of adrenal fatigue and cortisol imbalance, the problem is very minor and easy to reverse. It might be noticeable, but not to a great degree. As adrenal fatigue progresses, it can take longer to heal from the issue. Soon, cortisol levels will be lower in the morning and higher at night, resulting in sleep disruption and increased levels of stress. This only serves to aggravate the issue, causing you to become even more wired and tired than you were before. The more the problem gets neglected, the longer it will take to heal, and the more tiresome life can become. Therefore, it’s important to heal the adrenal glands as soon as possible to normalize cortisol levels.

Learn about cortisol and stress effects on the body.There are symptoms which can help you tune into their cortisol levels, and understand whether these levels are healthy or below average. Such signs include muscle aches, hypoglycemia, shakiness, strong cravings for sugar or salt, and extreme fatigue. All of these could indicate the presence of low cortisol, as could swollen ankles, low blood pressure, brain fog, moodiness, allergies, inability to handle stress, and infections that don’t seem to go away. A few other issues which may also be associated with low cortisol levels are muscle weakness, taking longer than normal to recover after exercising, and having a hard time getting out of bed in the mornings.

As if handling the challenges of everyday life isn’t difficult enough, exhaustion and excessive stress can take a massive toll on a person’s body. If you believe these symptoms may apply to you, it is important to look into adrenal fatigue as a potential cause. The wired and tired feeling is a symptom of Adrenal Fatigue and a result of the neuroaffective response system the body uses to deal with stress. Information is a key factor in recovering from adrenal exhaustion, and the more you know about cortisol, the more effective your treatment can potentially be. Once the cause has been identified, it can be relieved, and harmony can be restored to the body once again.

The Takeaway

All too many people experience the feeling of being wired and tired. If this is you, then you might start learning about cortisol and how this could be creating this unnatural and disconcerting state. Here's what to do if this feeling is impacting your daily life:

  1. It's important to get help and support as early as possible to avoid the worsening of your symptoms.
  2. Look out for sources of stress  in your life that might be combining to cause your symptoms.
  3. Talk to a medical professional who's aware of adrenal fatigue and the effects it can have on your body and on your cortisol levels.

For more information on cortisol, adrenal fatigue, or general fatigue, talk to our friendly staff on +1 (626) 571-1234 or click here for help and support.

© Copyright 2016-2020 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

© Copyright 2001-2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.
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