Diurnal Cortisol Curve

Did you know that Stress and Adrenal function can affect sleep, particularly the circadian pattern of cortisol secretion by the adrenal glands? Circulating cortisol normally rises and falls throughout the 24-hour daily cycle, and is typically highest at around 8 AM and lowest between midnight and 4 AM. Both high and low nighttime cortisol levels can interrupt sound sleep. When the adrenals fatigue, adrenal hormone levels may become low, leading to another possible source of nighttime sleep disruption – low blood sugar.

Diurnal Cortisol Curves also called a

four-point cortisol curve

or circadian cortisol pattern

The normal rise in cortisol production is usually within 30 minutes of waking up. Cortisol levels then drop throughout the day, reaching their lowest point at around bedtime.

If you have prolonged stress demands this will cause higher than normal cortisol production throughout the day. Some symptoms are feeling “tired but wired,” food cravings, insomnia, and anxiety.

Chronic fatigue usually will show elevated morning cortisol with levels dropping off rapidly throughout the day. The symptoms of this show up as mid-day energy drops, drowsiness, along with poor exercise recovery.


The burnout, “adrenal fatigue” is really a reflection of low overall cortisol during the day. Your symptoms will be all-day-long fatigue, irritability, food cravings, insomnia, and exhaustion.




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