Do you have trouble getting going in the morning or do you jump out of bed ready to go? If you need caffeine before it is safe to talk to anyone, then you may want to think about melatonin. Low melatonin shows up fairly often on lab work, even in those who sleep well. Melatonin has many actions in the body and it works closely with other hormones like cortisol.
Cortisol Awakening Response (CAR)
Your CAR feels like a shot of caffeine. When you open your eyes first thing in the morning, cortisol levels naturally begin to rise. Half an hour later cortisol is still increasing quickly and an hour after waking levels peak and then begin to fall. Measuring this rise of cortisol upon waking gives us a look into our stress response. The technical term for stress response is the HPA axis (hypothalamus pituitary adrenal).
A Low Stress Response
A low stress response makes you less resilient to everyday life and you likely wake up feeling tired. Psychological burnout, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), poor sleep, PTSD, chronic fatigue and chronic pain can cause a low CAR. Autoimmune disease, hypertension, digestive dysfunction and postpartum depression can also cause an underactive HPA axis response.
Cortisol is an important anti-inflammatory. It works with other hormones and chemical messengers to maintain energy, appetite, sleep and mood while decreasing pain. It makes you a “happy upon waking” person.
Cortisol & Antidepressants
Job-related stress, blood sugar dysregulation, pain, and depression all increase our cortisol response. Having looked at over 80 comprehensive cortisol tests this year, I can tell you that high cortisol is more common than a low response. By assessing both circulating cortisol and total cortisol, I get a clear picture of what is happening in the body.
I also see how antidepressants affect cortisol and neurotransmitters. Everyone who is prescribed an antidepressant ought to have full cortisol testing beforehand. SSRI’s work on cortisol. Doesn’t it make sense to check it?
Why Melatonin is Magic
Melatonin rises when we unwind in the evening. It works with the cortisol awakening response by ensuring we rest well at night. Melatonin is a master antioxidant. You can find it in foods like sour cherry, pistachios, cranberries, peppers, button mushrooms, grapes, wine, roasted coffee beans, bananas, mustard, almonds, lentils and tomatoes.
Melatonin is produced in your gut and your pineal gland. Like cortisol, it’s anti-inflammatory and modulates your immune system. Melatonin improves cardiovascular and glucose markers too. So put on your blue blocking sunglasses at night and enjoy these yummy foods. You’ll likely sleep more soundly and have better energy in the morning. Why not huh?