What is cortisol and what does it do?

What is cortisol and what does it do?
Cortisol is essential for life. Without it, you die. Recently, cortisol has been pained as the evil villain when it comes to stress. And in one way, that is the case. Too much cortisol can have a catastrophic effect on your body. Firstly, it reduces the relaxing neurotransmitter serotonin out of your brain. This means that it is challenging to relax. Cortisol also causes fat to accumulate around your waist, which is terrible for your health, as well as your summer body.

What does cortisol do to the human body?

I have just painted cortisol in a bad light, but like all chemicals in your body, there is a reason why it is there. Firstly, it is not right to relax all the time. As a species, we wouldn’t have survived are we just ‘chilled’ when a lion was attacking us. That would have ended badly for the human species. Thus, when we weren’t at the top of the food chain, we needed a mechanism to escape what was at the top of the food chain so we wouldn’t become part of the food chain. Cortisol depleted serotonin for us to stop relaxing and start to ‘fight or flight’ the threat. It also released sugars into the blood so as we could use it quickly as energy to survive the encounter.


Cortisol could keep you up at night

Having high cortisol levels can have some benefit when it comes to fighting and flighting as previously stated. Naturally, cortisol is raised in the morning so we can get out of bed and meet the day. It is also an opportune time to hit the gym, go for that run, or just do something active as your body is primed by cortisol to move. In the evening, cortisol levels are supposed to drop to very low levels so as you can peacefully nod off to sleep and repeat the cycle the next day. But if you are stressed in the evening or just unable to switch your mind off, cortisol levels can increase and keep you awake and even counting sheep won’t be able to get you to drift off. This is probably the most common cause of insomnia.