Anna Asks: Why am I exhausted at 4:00 and wired at 10:00?

Welcome to our QA series “Anna Asks.”  Now you likely know our Anna, and she’s driving the bus on this one with the questions BUT these questions, well they are you.  From you.  Each Wednesday Anna will ask either Megan or Katie a burning question that you’ve inquired about.  Today she {Anna } is up.  Megan will break this one down for you.  Thanks Ladies!

Sleep. Why am I exhausted at 4:00 and wired at 10:00? What can I do about it?
Ah, energy. Lack thereof, or there when you don’t need  it. Katie and I hear this one all the time. Any of these sound familiar?
  • Waking at 3 or 4 am and can’t get back to sleep
  • Next to impossible to get out of bed in the morning 
  • Afternoon slump (or total crash) 
  • Insatiable cravings for salty or sweet snacks and caffeine to keep going
  • Suddenly ready to write a dissertation at 11pm
What’s the deal? Why does this happen?  Most common culprit: adrenal fatigue. What are your adrenals? They are glands that sit atop your kidneys and produce your stress hormones, one of which is cortisol. We couldn’t function without this life sustaining hormone. Cortisol influences, regulates and modulates many responses in the body including stress, but also blood sugar levels, metabolism to maintain blood glucose, immune responses, anti-inflammatory actions, and blood pressure, to name a few. Clearly, it’s an important hormone. 
Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day and night, a healthy rhythm that should peak at about 8am and reach it’s lowest around 4am. So what’s it mean when they’re out of whack? It means that after a stressful situation (when cortisol is released), it doesn’t return to a normal level, but instead stays high. Over time (for example if you have a stressful career, relationship, etc.) this can lead too much circulating cortisol and eventually, if the glands become chronically fatigued, too little cortisol. 
Why does this matter? Chronic stress = elevated cortisol levels  Over time it can slow your thyroid (metabolism/weight gain), impair cognitive function, disrupt sleep, cause hyperglycemia, elevate blood pressure, and the one we all hate the most? Increase belly fat.  Yikes. This goes on too long it results in too little cortisol = adrenal fatigue. Even worse.
So how do your re-balance? First step: balance your blood sugar levels. In cases of adrenal imbalance what you eat is almost as important as when you eat. It’s crucial to eat within an hour of rising, and to be vigilant to incorporate healthy protein, healthy fat and some fiber. All meals should follow that trifecta – and be sure to have access to a healthy snack in the afternoon. Cardinal rule? Stay away from sugar and refined carbohydrates! This means pastries, bagels, bread, crackers, pretzels, chips, cookies, cakes…you know, the stuff near the water cooler. Now I know you’re ready to hit me, but two final items to avoid: caffeine alcohol. While caffeine can help you get through on the short term, it is a big no-no for those who experience fatigue. Wean yourself off and/or switch to green tea. Alcohol royally messes with blood sugar so take a mini-break from it Consider it a vacation from hangovers if these seems impossible for you. Added bonus tip that works wonders for those waking in the middle of the night?  Eat a small amount of protein and fat – like a spoonful of almond butter or a slice or turkey – right before bed. In cases of severe of fatigue it’s important to work with a practitioner to get going on the right track.
Now get some rest!
Megan

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