Lower levels of cortisol equal lower stress levels. Here’s the Science Behind Why.
Cortisol is a killer. Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands. It is a “stress hormone” that works with the brain to control mood, motivation, and fear. While the purpose of cortisol is to drive us into a state of alertness when there’s a threat of danger, the body’s biological “alarm system” can quickly sabotage our health.Cortisol isn’t the villain when it’s operating normally in our bodies. In fact, proper cortisol levels help us to properly use carbohydrates, stifle inflammation, regulate blood pressure, control the sleep-wake cycle, and provide boosts of energy when we need to handle stressful situations. However, a person with normal cortisol function will always “come down” to a balanced state after the source of stress is gone. This isn’t the case for someone with elevated cortisol levels.
- When we are under extreme stress, our cortisol levels can stay elevated. This puts us at risk for:
- Heart disease.
- Memory issues.
- Concentration/focus issues.
- Digestive issues.
- Sleep issues.
- Weight gain.
- Increased blood cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, and blood pressure.
“Elevated cortisol levels following acute stress may facilitate the consolidation of fear-based emotional memories and condition a sensitized physiologic stress response,” according to a study on chronic stress, cortisol dysfunction, and pain.
When cortisol levels are exhausted, widespread pain and inflammation often manifest due to adrenal fatigue. What’s more, high cortisol levels that are triggered from a stressful event can trap a person in a cycle of constant stress and exhaustion.
Floating and Cortisol Levels: How Time in the Tank Can Dilute the Cortisol Response
Many studies have confirmed the link between flotation-REST (restricted environmental stimulation technique) and mood improvements. However, it appears that there’s also a direct link between flotation-REST therapy and cortisol regulation. The most comprehensive study conducted on flotation-REST and cortisol levels to date found that repeated brief REST-assisted relaxation produces a relaxation state associated with specific decreases in pituitary-adrenal axis activity. In addition, researchers have also found that repeated REST-assisted relaxation is associated with a significant decrease in plasma cortisol.
What does the data mean for people seeking holistic therapies for anxiety, depression, exhaustion, mood issues, and suspected adrenal fatigue? Flotation-REST therapy may be valuable for helping to regulate cortisol levels when they are elevated following stressful events. In addition to improving mood in the short term, flotation-REST therapy may also insulate people from the long-term adverse health effects associated with sustained elevated cortisol levels.