Sleep and fertility, why you should go to bed by 10PM (weekly challenge #16)

Sleep is so important for our overall health, but also for the health of our hormones.

I wish I had always known that!

Instead, I often stayed up late: reading books, watching movies, finishing household projects….

It was a horrible cycle of staying up late and using coffee to get going the next morning. After awhile I struggled to fall asleep before midnight, but I brushed it off as being a night owl.

Sleep and fertility


If only I had known then what I know, maybe I could have prevented adrenal fatigue.

As we work through our fertility challenges and I share things I’ve learned in my own journey with infertility, I’d have to say this is one of the most important.

My notes on sleep and fertility

  • Our adrenal glands are more at rest and can better produce the hormones our bodies need when we get quality sleep. We also naturally will produce more cortisol between 11PM and midnight if we’re not asleep, keeping up awake even longer and changing the way our bodies produce both cortisol and melatonin (two important hormones). But if you’re asleep by 10PM, the cortisol boost won’t happen until morning, allowing you plenty of energy to wake up and get going.


  • When we follow the pattern of the sun our bodies are working within its natural circadian rhythm. No matter how long we’ve kept the schedule we have, our bodies have an ingrained circadian rhythm that controls:
    • Neurotransmitters – chemicals released in the brain which allow impulses to travel from one nerve cell to another
    • Hormone production – chemical messengers
    • Enzymes – which catalyze chemical reactions
    • Behavior
    • Appetite
    • Body temperature
    • Blood pressure
    • Heart rate
    • Metabolism
    • Libido



  • Length of sleep also matters! Did you know women that don’t get enough sleep struggle with leptin production? If you don’t have enough leptin, you may not ovulate. Leptin is also important for weightloss.

How much sleep do we need?

Experts recommend 7-9 hours across the board. If you struggle with hormone imbalance and/or adrenal fatigue, nine hours would probably be best.

In our culture of go-go-go, it seems that we think doing more and resting less makes us more productive…and we think less of people that look “lazy”. Unfortunately this thinking has many of us struggling with our health! How great would it be if we simply got the rest our bodies need?

To allow for proper restoration and healing. For proper detoxification. For hormone balance.

When should we sleep?

All of us have very different schedules and we do need to work within certain time-frames depending on our work hours, but the best time to sleep is between 10PM and 6AM. 

Have you ever heard the saying “one hour before midnight is worth two after”?

Getting to bed by 10PM allows us to follow our natural circadian rhythm and fall asleep when it’s at the lowest point. We can then wake as the sun comes up between 6 and 7AM.

Fertility challenge

weekly challenge #16: get to bed (preferably asleep!) by 10PM each night.

Adrenal Calming Infusion

I don’t know about you, but when I first heard the term adrenal fatigue I kinda “poo-pooed” it.

I mean come on…I thrive on keeping busy. I am a born “do-er”.

But in the last couple years I have literally been through some of the darkest health days I have ever experienced because I chose to ignore the very apparent adrenal issues I was suffering.

Back to back pregnancies followed by a miscarriage and then very quickly and unexpectedly getting pregnant shortly after that threw my body into a deeper level of adrenal fatigue to complete exhaustion. Nothing. Nada. I wasn’t even registering cortisol on the charts because I flat-out didn’t have any.

In the last 18 months, I have thrown myself head first into healing my adrenal health which in turn has uncovered the root of many longstanding thyroid issues I have just dealt with for many years. It has also given me a great respect for this thing called…enjoying life. Relaxing. Taking a deep breath. Sitting DOWN. Chilling out.

I am not completely healed. But I am functioning at a level I haven’t functioned at since well before I had children.One of the things I really needed help with doing was relaxing enough to sleep well at night. I just physically couldn’t do it on my own. All the downtime, healthy food, and deep breathing in the world just couldn’t settle my frazzled nerves. And sleep is what my body was craving the most at this point.

I started making this after dinner infusion last year and it really helped my quest for better sleep habits. I would make it right after dinner and let the herbs infuse the water and drink it when my kids went to bed. An hour later I was definitely ready to rest which was perfect timing. I made myself bedtimes. I took some time out for *me*. And used my “do-er” personality to dive head first into the task of healing my body from fatigue.

It’s just a simple step – but giving your body a little help to wind down in the evening so you can rest well could be the first and most important step to your own stress and adrenal healing.

herbal tea for adrenals

relaxing tea

Adrenal Calming Infusion
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 tsp dried chamomile
  • ½ tsp dried hibiscus or rose hips
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Optional squeeze of lemon and/or drizzle of raw honey to taste (I love both!)
  1. Pour the hot water over your dried herbs and steep anywhere from 5-10 minutes (this will make more of a “tea”) or over a couple of hours (this is called an “infusion” and is a little stronger than tea). I like to use my French press so the herbs are strained out as I pour.
  2. After the herbs have steeped you can strain them out, add the pinch of sea salt, and squeeze the lemon and stir in the raw honey to your taste.

adrenal calming infusion


Herbal information

Chamomile – traditionally know for it’s relaxing properties, dried chamomile is often used before bedtime or during moments of mental or emotional stress.

The small white flowers have a slightly sweet scent pleasant flavor. It is part of the ragweed family, so a person with extreme ragweed allergies may want to use caution.

Hibiscus – Just a bit tart, hibiscus adds a wonderful red color to the tea as well as plenty of antioxidants. Avoid if you have gallstones.

Rosehips – the dried fruit of certain species of roses is a great source of vitamin C and antioxidants and adds a slightly tart flavor to the tea.


(note from Donielle – I love to purchase my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs or Bulk Herb Store! I’ve been pleased with the quality from both of them.)


For more amazing drink recipes, follow our whole foods board on Pinterest!

Cortisol and Stress

Stress. Few things are more familiar to us. In fact, it’s everywhere.

Let’s think about it for a moment:

How many times a day would you guess that you “stress?”

How many nights a week do you lie awake, worried about a situation?

How often does that nagging thought resurface throughout the day?

How do you care for yourself amidst all the stress you find in your life?

Money. Relationships. Car accidents. Loss of loved ones. 
Even the very thought of these.

They all affect our bodies.

The body responds to all stress is the same, even if the stressor is a looping thought that just won’t go away. Whether you’re getting chased by a bear or you’re worried about paying the bills, it’s all the same to your body and causes your Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) to fire up.

This function is both beautifully simple and complex.

cortisol and stress

Let’s explore.

Cortisol and stress

When we experience distress our SNS kicks in and says, “DANGER! PROTECT! I’M NOT OKAY!” What that will look like for you is dependent on many factors. Biologically, though, your body goes through a series of predictable physiological changes, including:

  • Rapid breath and heart beat
  • Perspiration
  • Increased body temperature
  • Pupillary dilation
  • Rise in blood pressure
  • Flush or pale skin, depending on the individual

Because there are fibers of the SNS that extend into nearly every tissue in the body, effects of chronic stress are felt throughout the whole body.

Our brain function, stomach, large and small intestines, kidneys and reproductive organs are just a few systems that suffer. When stress isn’t simply momentary, but constant and unrelenting, our bodies never receive the cue from the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) that the danger has dissipated and we’re safe from harm once again.

The problem with never receiving the “all clear” signal is that the momentary bursts of hormones become chronic, and bodily processes like reproduction, digestion, memory, and kidney function, which were meant to be momentarily suppressed to allow us to make it to safety, become chronically suppressed, and our adrenals, which function as the body’s “shock absorbers” stay on, convinced that we’re still in emanate danger. All. The. Time.

Cortisol and weight

Most of us know cortisol as “the stress hormone.” As a society we have come understand that when we’re under a lot of stress, higher levels of cortisol cause us to gain weight. And we hate gaining weight! But how exactly is this true?

Cortisol is released by the adrenals when they receive notice that we’re in danger (be it a conflict, finances, or a rabid monkey chasing us). Cortisol then assists us in “getting away” by activating a long list of bodily processes, such as converting proteins to energy, attempting to combat stress, and restoring homeostasis in the body. Together, with decreased nutrition absorption from a depressed digestive system, weight gain is increasingly likely.

So, here we are. Coping with stress. All cylinders firing. And, as we know, prolonged excess cortisol causes us to start gaining weight. While this seems counter-intuitive, let’s consider how weight gain could be a protective measure. If you were really being chased by a rabid monkey, would you stop to eat? Probably not. Food is the last thing on your mind. Your body, being the intelligent, dynamic organism that is is, sustains you by packing on the pounds so you don’t need to stop and feed while fleeing for your life.

Thanks, body!

adrenals and stress

Cortisol and the immune system

And then, when you least need it, you start getting sick. Really sick. And you stay sick for a long, long time. When you do get better, you still feel run down.


Because cortisol blocks T-cells (a vital part of our immune response) from doing their job. We can cope with this temporarily, but over time the sustained roadblock T-cells encounter to do their job leaves us vulnerable to every little germ. And because the body is prioritizing the perceived threat against our lives, the bug that would give us the sniffles slips through undeterred.

Cortisol and memory

Initially, cortisol can give us great clarity in dangerous situations. However, it does so by suppressing function to the hippocampus where memories are processed and stored. Long term excess cortisol, as is present in chronic stress, overwhelms the hippocampus, causing it to atrophy, or waste away. (Don’t fret this too much, though! All signs are that, for the chronically stressed, this can be reversed!)

10 Wellness strategies for countering chronic stress (and balancing cortisol)

adrenal fatigue

As with most health challenges, there is no one magical thing you can do to feel better. In fact, it’s my hope that it’s YOUR hope to not just feel better, but actually be better. What can we do to not only lower our cortisol levels, but to heal ourselves and move towards living as wholly integrated individuals?

1) First and foremost, it is essential that you look to put yourself first and find ways to destress and simplify life. There may be stressors that are beyond your control, so look for the things that you can do something about immediately.

2) Consider meditation. Recent research is proving what many cultures have asserted for centuries: meditation, particularly Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction reduces stress levels while increasing your ability to handle stressful situations.

3) Because sustained excess levels of cortisol work against insulin and increase blood sugar levels, it is important to move towards a food lifestyle where the majority of your foods are whole foods: foods that look like what they are.

4) Lots of good, healthy fats, such as coconut oil (available here) and avocado. Not only will this help stabilize your blood sugar, but it also helps to soothe frayed and tired nerves.

5) Eliminate stimulants from your diet, in all their forms. Energy drinks. Coffee. Caffeinated teas (white, green, black). Even refined sugars can stress an already-rev’d-up nervous system. While some can go “cold turkey,” you may find that you’re more successful if you eliminate one type at a time.

6) Water. Drink lots of water. Daily. Half your body weight in ounces, every day. (For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, your water intake goal for the day is 75 ounces.)

7) Get to bed by 10. This one’s the one that gets the most pushback. But it’s also one of the more important ones. Without sleep our body can’t rest recover. And those of us in the chronic stress camp need to get to bed by 10. If not, we may find ourselves up until 1-3 a.m.

8) Herbal and dietary supplements. Herbs that are nervine (nourishing to the nerves) and adaptogenic (supporting the body in adapting to stress) are going to be particularly helpful. My encouragement is to find a Naturopath or trained herbalist who will sit down, get to know you, and make specific suggestions. Herbs, like people, have personalities and nuances that help professionals know exactly the kind of person they will be helpful for. This is just one reason why your neighbor can have great success using chamomile to relax and it may do absolutely nothing for you.

9) Schedule down time. Ideally every day. Have time set aside that is meant for things that bring you peace and restoration.

10) Emotions. Although I put this last, don’t think it’s less important! From a Naturopathic perspective, there is an emotional component to our illnesses, especially if the illnesses are chronic. This mind-body connection is crucial! The adrenals and kidneys have a strong affinity to fear and a feeling of “I’m not safe.” Explore how these emotions might be showing up in your life.


Have you dealt with chronic stress? Comment below and let us know what has helped you! (or what you’re having a hard time with)

Three natural tips to overcome insomnia

dealing with insomnia

There’s no sugar-coating it, insomnia stinks.

Through my life I’ve had plenty of nights here and there where I didn’t sleep well. Usually it had to do with something I ate or drank, sometimes due a stressful situation, and other times due to taking a nap during the day. So when I dealt with chronic insomnia I didn’t really know what to do.

Of course the worst part was that I was completely fatigued and had major brain fog during the day so I had a hard time following through on any treatment protocol I thought of.

It began with my miscarriage almost three years ago. At first I couldn’t fall asleep (which is very common due to emotional and physical stress as well as the hormonal changes) and within a month or so I was also waking up each night only a couple of hours after I had fallen asleep. This went on for a year and a half, five hours of sleep was a good night. I was a walking zombie during the day and it was affecting just about every part of my life! I was grumpy to those I loved, scatterbrained and forgetful, and so consumed and overwhelmed with my own life I was a horrible friend.

Over the course of about two months, following the tips below, I was finally able to sleep again, getting 8-9 hours of sleep each night.

This is a Type-A Parent paid post to discuss sleep issues, and to share a new insomnia resource from the National Sleep Foundation.

Three natural tips to overcome insomnia

1. Get tested

I always knew that some nutrients are associated with a good nights sleep, but I figured that wasn’t my problem as I ate quite a healthy diet. But in my quest to figure out why I always felt so horrible my doctor ran a myriad of tests. Come to find out, I was deficient in both Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D and began supplementing right away.

It wasn’t a quick fix, but within the first week I began to remember my dreams again, something I hadn’t done since my miscarriage. I also felt like the sleep I was getting was a better quality, deeper sleep. So if you’re dealing with insomnia, make sure to check with your doctor and get tested for common nutrient deficiencies.

We also found through testing that my thyroid was running on the slow side and my adrenals weren’t functioning very well at all.

If you have chronic stress in your life, it’s probable that you might be dealing with adrenal fatigue, with insomnia being one of the major symptoms.

2. Go to sleep earlier

Going to bed early has been a difficult thing to do in many seasons of my life, whether it’s dealing with a baby/young child or staying up late to work and write. I was really good at trying to squeeze in a few extra hours to my day and after bedtime seemed like a great way to do it. Especially when I was most likely dealing with minor adrenal fatigue in the beginning and my second wind (boost of cortisol) hit me around 11pm. All of a sudden I had plenty of energy, a clear mind, and a quiet house.

I knew that going to bed earlier was probably going to be helpful, but I began to experience that 11pm wakeup, even when I went to bed 30-60 minutes earlier. What I found was that I needed to be in a deep sleep by that time for my adrenals to chill out and rest as well. So we began going to bed by 9:30pm most nights and that seemed to take care of my inability to fall asleep as well as waking up soon after I fell asleep.

3. Cutting back on night snacks

I don’t know if this is the same for everyone, but I began to sleep so much better after giving up my nighttime snacks! Granted, I still snack at night sometimes, but when I was still dealing with middle of the night waking (I woke around 2am and couldn’t sleep again until 4am) it was immensely helpful to not snack at all, especially anything heavy or in mass quantities.

I do know that the body works to repair and detoxify at night and when it’s busy digesting it may not function as well as it needs to in other areas. My body may have needed that time of rest so that it could fully heal. So for a couple of months I made sure I ate dinner before 5:30 to make sure digestion was well on its way before I fell asleep.


Of course, there were other things I did as well, like:

  • cut out caffeine
  • light exercise in the morning when possible
  • no napping after 11am
  • no sweets after lunch
  • limited my schedule to allow for extra rest for my adrenals

I still have nights of insomnia, but instead of every night, it’s only once or twice a month. I finally feel good and can think a lot more clearly!

How have you dealt with insomnia?

natural tips to overcome insomnia
Be sure to check out a new resource from the National Sleep Foundation at – a good place to start if you think you have insomnia or aren’t sleeping. The National Sleep Foundation is your trusted resource for everything sleep – understanding how sleep works & why it’s important, learning healthy habits, creating a relaxing bedroom & bedtime routine, & finding solutions to your sleep issues.

Naturally Healing the Thyroid, part four: the adrenals

We’ve already talked about how blood sugar balance, digestion, the liver and detoxification can affect the thyroid, but there is one glaring fact that I’ve meant to get to. Except that the last couple of weeks have been a bit more stressful than normal and I’ve been dealing with some crashes myself due to…..

Adrenal Fatigue.

If you’ve been a reader here for a couple of years, you may remember when I was actively trying to heal my adrenals. For six months I worked with my chiropractor and supplementation as well as dietary and lifestyle changes.

I saw great results and within about 6 months I was feeling a million times better, had plenty of energy, and all around felt good. That all ended a few months later as I dealt with the physical and emotional stress of a miscarriage and has carried on for over a year.

I tried my darndest to get my health back, but I just couldn’t fix myself this time. I tried everything I had tried before; desiccated adrenal supplements, vitamin C, no caffeine or sugar, lots of rest, reducing stress. Last fall I kept trying to make it in to my doctor’s office, and in November and December I took most of that time and stayed away from my computer, focusing on my health and my family, but something was still not right. I just couldn’t get over my fatigue.

And while my original lab tests (for vitamin D and B12 and a full thyroid panel) were back at an earlier date, I was just able to meet with my new holistic doctor and go over my lab results for the 24 hour adrenal saliva test. The appointment in which she told me that my adrenals suck.

  thyroid and adrenals

Ok, so maybe those words are mine.

But my cortisol levels are extremely low throughout the entire day, which is the reason that some mornings take what seems to immense strength just to get out of bed. Or you know….deal with people.

So, soon we’ll be getting into a bit more about recovering from adrenal fatigue and I’ll share a bit more about what I’m doing, but today let’s just chat a bit about why the adrenals affect the thyroid.

Because sometimes the thyroid is low, or not functioning properly, and it can instead be traced to the adrenals. And most medical doctors don’t test the adrenal hormones.

In fact, mine thought it was silly that my new doctor requested the lab test and said it wouldn’t really help, so there wasn’t a lot of reasons to spend the money to get it done. (at $175.00 I was actually going to skip it, but for some reason decided on day 20 that I would. It’s a test you do on day 21 of your cycle if you want a bit more accurate results for progesterone/estrogen, etc) This is probably because adrenal fatigue is not a recognized medical term, with medical doctors only looking for true adrenal shutdown, known as Addison’s. So adrenal fatigue is often called a “theory” that mostly alternative health practitioners “diagnose”.

What is Adrenal Fatigue?

The adrenals are two small glands, one on top of each kidney, and they help our bodies react and deal with stress through the production of adrenaline and cortisol. They also produce other hormones that are precursors to reproductive hormones.

Dr. James L. Wilson coined the term ‘adrenal fatigue’ back in the 90’s and it is basically an issue with the adrenals, whether they produce too much cortisol or too little, and the major symptom is fatigue. The direct cause is different for everyone, but it’s brought on by frequent stress, either physical, emotional, or mental.

It’s our bodies fight or flight reactions gone awry.

On Dr. Wilson’s website (a wealth of info) he states that:

“With each increment of reduction in adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in adrenal hormones that occurs with adrenal fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.”

Some of the basic symptoms listed on the website:

  1. You feel tired for no reason.
  2. You have trouble getting up in the morning, even when you go to bed at a reasonable hour.
  3. You are feeling rundown or overwhelmed.
  4. You have difficulty bouncing back from stress or illness.
  5. You crave salty and sweet snacks.
  6. You feel more awake, alert and energetic after 6PM than you do all day.

Other symptoms that could point to adrenal fatigue:

  • weakness
  • low libido
  • everyday tasks take a lot of strength and effort
  • little annoyances can drive you bonkers
  • mild depression or anxiety
  • PMS
  • thoughts are fuzzy/hard to put them together
  • decreased memory
  • allergies
  • decreased immune response
  • insomnia

Adrenal fatigue usually begins with frequent stress and ramps up the cortisol production. “As the adrenal glands become increasingly compromised, it’s harder for them to make cortisol. Instead, extra adrenalin is produced to compensate, which can make us irritable and shaky.” (source)

Adrenal and Thyroid function begin in the brain.

These glands are being told what to produce and how much of it to produce by a gland in our brain called the hypothalamus. I love how describes this action:

“Hormones are molecules released by one area of the body to carry messages to another area in the body. The thyroid’s main job is to produce the right amount of thyroid hormone to “tell” your cells how fast to burn energy and produce proteins. The adrenal glands’ primary job is to produce the right amount of stress hormones that allow you to respond to stress of a zillion kinds.”

You can also check out their info picture and description to get a better idea of how this all works.

When the body is exposed to stress of any kind, the hypothalamus sends out a signal (the corticotrophin-releasing hormone) to the pituitary for the adrenals to increase cortisol. Both the signal hormone and the cortisol can then inhibit TSH as well as block the conversion from T4 to T3, causing symptoms of low thyroid.

In some women, they may also have decreased progesterone levels due to adrenal fatigue as some sources mention that the precurser to progesterone, DHEA (dehydioepiandrosterone). DHEA is used to metabolize cholesterol and make the conversion to estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, so poor adrenal function can directly affect the reproductive system.

If you have thyroid problems, most alternative practitioners recommend testing the adrenals and if they are not functioning properly, that the adrenals be properly treated before the thyroid. (of course, thyroid support is essential depending on its function – always work with a doctor or health care professional.) Because the thyroid wont’ function properly no matter the treatment if the adrenals aren’t functioning well.

The issue of adrenal fatigue is one that is, thankfully, getting more and more attention over the last few years. Here are some other resources to help you learn more:

  2. Adrenal Fatigue, the 21st century stress syndrome a book by Dr. James L. Wilson
  3. How adrenals can wreak havoc – Stop the Thyroid Madness
  4. Eating to support adrenals
  5. Low metabolic energy therapies – an in-depth look at the adrenals and thyroid, the differences in symptoms, and the treatments.
  6. Adrenal Fatigue Signs and Symptoms – a metabolic chart
  7. The truth about adrenal fatigue – a look at the connection to the brain (it’s a great article, but please be aware of the scantily clad woman on the screen about halfway down…..wouldn’t want y’all to be shocked!)

I know many of you have dealt with adrenal fatigue, so I’d love it if you could share your story here in the comments of your symptoms and maybe how you began to heal! Patient wisdom is a helpful thing for everyone when we share and get new ideas to research for ourselves.
If YOU think you might be experiencing health problems due to your thyroid not functioning properly, or if you’re unhappy with your current treatment plan, I highly suggest buying the Thyroid Sessions*. Hosted by Sean of Underground Wellness, this team of experts is covering everything you need to know about thyroid disorders and treatments.