Posted by Nicole on February 6, 2020
When I was a child, I had a hard time eating my food in the morning as I got ready for school. I’d wake up (be dragged out of bed) at around 5 in the morning, usually on just a few hours of sleep. And no matter what wound up on my plate, I couldn’t get it down. The taste and texture would be overwhelming, and I’d literally gag. So, I’d go to school hungry.
So, I was fascinated when a friend recently referred me to a study which mentioned a connection between cortisol levels, sleep disorders, and sensory sensitivities in the morning. Incidentally, I have had delayed sleep onset my entire life, which was why I usually only had a few hours of sleep each night as a child.
The study itself is specific to autistic children (I have ASD), but some of the information I learned from it and from my friend’s previous professional research and training is broadly applicable to the general populace. For example:
- If your circadian rhythms are off for any reason, that will throw off your sleep cycles.
- If chronic stress happens to deplete your cortisol levels in the morning and you remain stressed, your sensitivity to physical stimuli can increase—thus the unpleasant taste and texture of your food in the morning.
- Cortisol levels are supposed to be high in the morning and low in the evening, the latter of which promotes proper sleep.
- If cortisol levels are high in the evening and low in the morning, not only can food taste bad in the AM (and you wake up tired), but it can be hard to sleep at night.
Obviously, this can lead to a vicious cycle. The more sleep a person loses, the more out-of-whack their hormone levels may become.
Now, if you do have sleep disturbances and your food tastes bad in the morning, I am not asserting that you are autistic—that is not a grounds for diagnosing autism.
But I am asserting that it might be worth it to ask yourself whether you are chronically stressed, and if so, if that might be 1-robbing you of sleep, and 2-increasing sensory sensitivity.
There is no sure-fire way to cure insomnia or to reduce unpleasant tastes or textures, but you can at least take steps to try and support healthy hormone levels while fighting chronic stress:
- Remove stressors from your life where possible.
- Figure out which activities help to restore physical and mental equilibrium, and make them into daily habits.
- Do what you can to make your environment more stable and supportive.
- Eat a healthy diet rich in nutrition.
- Consider a supplement to support cortisol function.
- Think about supplementing to promote regular, restful sleep cycles.
- Work out regularly.
- Meditation, relaxation exercises, art therapy, and many other options are available to help you reduce stress. Find out what works for you.
Whatever your neurological type and whatever the sources of chronic stress are in your life, taking a proactive approach to managing your stress should help. Hopefully you will sleep more soundly and your food will taste better—but even if not, you are bound to experience some other improvements along the way. Good luck on your journey toward learning to manage your stress.