Have trouble getting to sleep? Or wake up and can’t get back to sleep? Sleeplessness can be a sign of wonky cortisol levels. A non-alcoholic nightcap might be just the thing to give you a restful night.
Cortisol is a hormone that has the job of raising your heart rate, quickening your breath, and raising your blood sugars so that you are ready to act. Normally, it should drop off in the evening allowing you to enter parasympathetic state, to stop churning through your list, and to catch your 40 winks. It typically rises toward morning as your blood sugars gradually fall from your night’s fast. This sloping increase of hormone gently brings you out of slumber.
When blood sugars plummet dramatically – as they always do after the insulin surge that accompanies high-carb eating – cortisol will rush to save the brain from “starvation” by sending a signal to convert amino and fatty acids into glucose (the brain’s primary fuel). There will be an accompanying increase in heart rate and breathing, tipping the body out of its “being” state into its “doing” state. Even if it’s the middle of the night!
And if this high cortisol state is chronic, getting to sleep in anything less than two hours may be completely futile. This happens if your adrenals – where cortisol is produced – are overworked; if your stress is chronically high; or if a carb-heavy diet keep cortisol pumping long into the evening.
A mug of warm coconut milk mixed with ashwaghanda and cinnamon is a perfect remedy for such a vicious cycle. The coconut milk provides enough fat to fuel your body through the night without a “sugar crash.” The ashwaghanda relieves stress (see this post); a pinch of salt supports the adrenals; cinnamon helps blood sugar regulation; a spoonful of honey makes it yummy, and the soothing warmth promotes relaxation. Try it!
Coconut Milk Nightcap
6 oz. boiling water
1 capsule (500 mg) ashwgandha root
2 oz. full-fat coconut milk without additives
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. honey
Open the ashwagandha capsule and sprinkle it into the hot water. Steep for 10 minutes. Add the other ingredients and stir. Sip slowly while reading a book, soaking in the tub, watching the stars, or some other relaxing activity.