Prioritizing your sleep may be an effective way to reduce cortisol levels. Chronic sleep issues such as obstructive sleep apnea, insomnia, or shift work have been associated with higher cortisol (8Trusted Source).
One review of 28 studies in shift workers found that cortisol levels were higher in workers who slept during the day (night shift workers) rather than at night (day shift workers) (9Trusted Source).
Those on rotating shifts have been linked with poorer health outcomes, such as obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and worsened mental health (10Trusted Source, 11Trusted Source, 12Trusted Source).
Further, insomnia is a sleep condition that refers to difficulty sleeping. It can be caused by many things, including stress and obstructive sleep apnea. This can result in increased circulating cortisol which affects your daily hormone patterns, energy levels, and other facets of health (8Trusted Source, 13Trusted Source, 14Trusted Source).
If you are a night shift or rotating shift worker, you do not have complete control over your sleep schedule, but there are some things you can do to optimize sleep (15Trusted Source, 16Trusted Source, 17Trusted Source, 18Trusted Source):
- Have a bedtime routine. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine (e.g., shower, read a book, etc.) can tell your brain and body to start winding down for the night.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day. A regular sleep schedule has been shown to be one of the most effective ways to improve sleep.
- Exercise earlier in the day. Exercising regularly can improve sleep quality but should be done at least 2–3 hours before bedtime.
- Limit caffeine intake. Try to stop consuming caffeine-containing food and drinks around 6 hours before your bedtime.
- Avoid nicotine and alcohol. Both substances can affect sleep quality and duration.
- Limit exposure to bright light at night. Around 45–60 minutes before sleep, reduce your exposure to bright and/or blue light. Instead of reaching for your phone in bed, try reading a book or listening to a podcast.
- Go to bed in a quiet room. Limit interruptions by using white noise, ear plugs, and silencing your phone.
- Take naps. If shift work cuts your sleep hours short, napping can reduce sleepiness and prevent a sleep deficit. That said, napping may worsen sleep quality in non-shift workers.
SUMMARYPracticing good sleep hygiene can help to keep cortisol in a normal rhythm. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule, avoiding caffeine 6 hours before bed, and staying off your cell phone right before bed are effective strategies.