Cortisol is an important steroid hormone in the body, naturally secreted by the adrenal glands on a schedule throughout the day.
The release of cortisol is controlled by the hypothalamus (pituitary gland) It generally peaks at about 08:00-09:00. Throughout the day, cortisol levels steadily drop and reach their lowest at about 20:00-22:00 to ready the body for restorative sleep.
A cortisol circadian rhythm that is disrupted by chronic stress, both mentally and physically, can impair one’s ability to fall asleep or even stay asleep. Although stress isn’t the only reason that cortisol is secreted into the bloodstream, it has been termed “the stress hormone” because it’s also secreted in higher levels during the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response.
Cortisol is also involved in regulation of blood pressure, insulin release for blood sugar maintenance, immune function and inflammatory response.
Taking good care of your thought patterns and regulating emotional responses, exercising and maintaining a healthy diet helps release optimal levels of cortisol which is good. The flipside is true, not taking care of yourself means too much cortisol is released, which is not good for you.