There are different types of stress we encounter in our day-to-day lives. You might be rushing to get the kids to school because you overslept, pushing hard at the gym, or approaching a deadline at work. Regardless of the type of stress we encounter, our bodies go into fight-or-flight mode. In response, our body increases the production of a hormone called cortisol; aka the stress hormone.
Naturally, our bodies are wired to ramp up cortisol levels in the early hours of the morning to wake us up, slowly climbing to keep us alert throughout the day, and starts to diminish as evening approaches. Back in the day, this natural process was easy to maintain. Everyone rose with the sun and fell asleep with the stars. But in today’s day and age, we have increased stress, stimulants, and artificial light that trick our body into thinking it’s still daytime, even at night. This causes our cortisol levels to remain high into the evening and throughout the night. Not getting enough sleep or poor quality of sleep puts stress on the body, leading to even more cortisol production.
What’s the big hubbub about this excess cortisol production? Well, for starters, it causes increased inflammation in the body making you more susceptible to chronic disease down the line, and weakens your immune system against acute illness.
If that wasn’t enough, cortisol further impacts our ability to maintain a healthy weight. In addition to your appetite-regulating hormones being completely out of whack and causing you to eat more, cortisol actually slows down our metabolism and causes our bodies to store fat while burning muscle.
So, next time you’re fighting the urge to sleep because you want to finish that presentation for work or watch one more episode of your favourite show, think about what your body really needs, not what your mind is trying to convince you of!