When Stress Hormones Make You Feel Better: Wake Up And Enjoy The Cortisol

When you go to bed feeling down, you may settle into the sheets comforted by the thought that “tomorrow is another day.” And research shows that you are right to count on that boost; your body helps you build stress hormone levels throughout the night to give you the oomph you need to face problems head-on in the morning.

Cortisol — a stress hormone that has been linked to depression, obesity and other health problems when chronically elevated — has been found to increase when people go to bed feeling lonely, sad or overwhelmed. After you awake, a cortisol rush helps you deal with problems and conflicts.

“You’ve gone to bed with loneliness, sadness, feelings of being overwhelmed, then along comes a boost of hormones in the morning to give you the energy you need to meet the demands of the day,” says researcher Emma K. Adam.

In the short term, the morning cortisol boost can be helpful and give you the energy you need to face the problems you went to bed dwelling upon; but some studies — mostly in lab settings — have shown cortisol to cause physical problems if it is at elevated levels for too long.

“Cortisol helps us respond to stressful experiences and do something about them,” researcher Louise C. Hawkley says. “It is necessary for survival — fluctuations in this hormone assist us in meeting the changing demands we face in our daily lives.”

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