CAR stands for Cortisol Awakening Response. It is what gets us up and going in the morning! Ideally, we have balance between our cortisol levels and our melatonin levels. Cortisol helps us be awake, alert, and ready for action, while melatonin tells our body it is time to rest, relax, and rejuvenate.
If our body has been weathering very stressful circumstances, then the morning cortisol surge is anticipating more of the same in an effort to protect you. After all, melatonin and cortisol are both hormones and compete with one another in the name of survival! If your body believes you are safe, then it makes sense to allow you to experience ample melatonin and much lower overnight cortisol to allow deepest rest and optimal healing. However, if your body believes your world is threatening and your survival is, perhaps, not too certain, then melatonin will be suppressed and cortisol will surge to help your fight, flight, or hide instincts as needed. This results in a strong Cortisol Awakening Response! If you are waking up at 4:00 am and cannot go back to sleep-this is why!
A key to readjusting your morning cortisol response is to pay attention to what is contributing to your stress throughout the day. Consider focusing on these areas:
Sleep Hygiene. In order to have an optimal melatonin level at night we want to avoid full-spectrum light, loud noises, eating rich or sugary foods, and alarming or over-stimulating activity (e.g. evening news or crime show on TV, paying bills) for at least 1-2 hours before bed. If you struggle with this contact me and I will share a detailed handout on how to improve your sleep hygiene.
Physiological Stress. Sometimes whatever mental/emotional stress is at play for us is not the dominant driver for an aggressive CAR. Instead, our body is on high alert due to sources of physiological stress e.g. exposure to allergens (e.g. pets or mold in bedroom), unacknowledged food sensitivities to foods that are consumed regularly, undiagnosed sub-clinical infections, exposure to toxins (consider personal hygiene/beauty products), and sleep apnea. Contact me if you want to explore these possible dynamics for you.
Reduce intake of alcohol and stimulants (especially after noon). Be sure to consider sugar, including chocolate, as well as caffienated beverages. Even the 11am or 1pm cup of coffee can have a negative effect on sleep quality and duration. We can work together on this!
There are many more contributing factors to why your CAR (Cortisol Awakening Response) may be in overdrive. Please feel free to contact me for a free discovery session to explore what you need to be less stressed, sleep better, and have balance!