Thyroid UK

Find a curve of the cortisol production over the day


In my attempt to understand cortisol I wonder how the body produces the cortisol normally? We speak of that taking T3 with following CT3M can support the cortisol production since this happens during our latest four sleeping hours.

The blood test for cortisol shall be taken early in the morning, without eating anything before the test. Some say before kl 08:00, others say three hours after wakening. I'm not always awake at 08...

Of course a saliva test is the best, but this is usually not taken in a first step.

Stefan Sjöberg, chairman of the Swedish endocrinologist organization, said at a seminar in April 2015 that the cortisol level should be at least 500, the guidelines says 400 tough – but this is how it usually is, the guidelines are very wide.


4 Replies

Hello pigling,

Cortisol is secreted from the adrenal glands but regulated by the brain.

The HPA axis operates through a negative feedback system which means the hypothalamus, pituary and adrenal all depend on each other for signals to start and stop.

Normally cortisol and other adrenal hormones follow a circadian pattern with the highest levels secreted at about 8am helping us to wake up and the lowest between midnight and 4am which when plotted on a graph would show a high to low curve.

It is at 4am that a low cortisol level shown by a dip on the curve, can make the glycogen to glucose convertion in the liver much more difficult, resulting in low blood sugar and waking the person up.

There are lots of other influences that cause spikes and dips on the curve such as stress (mental and pysical), food (or lack of), exercise and sleep patterns. A lot of people experience a slight dip between 3-5pm when natural energy levels drop but high or low cortisol levels will show many more variations on the curve.

As the adrenals struggle to cope with a hectic life style, poor diet, or diseased body the cortisol secretion is raised and raised until it becomes unable to reduce (high cortisol levels). Eventually the cortisol becomes depleated and unable to keep up with demand (low cortisol levels) so other hormones are compromised as they step in to help.

Hence why DHEA often shows as deficient when cortisol is low on our saliva stress tests. The cortisol DHEA ratio is a good indicator of the state the fatigued adrenal is at.


1 like

Thanks for the answer Flower007!

Is it possible to upload pictures here..? I have a graph I'd like to post.

I'm curious of how our rythm affects this, i.e. when I go to sleep and when I wake up? What happens when the alarm wakes you up? Is the production then ended too soon?

// Piggelin :-)



I think to be allowed to wake up naturally must be the best option but I don't think it would impact cortisol production too much being woken by an alarm clock. (Unless you are night or shift worker).

Don't forget cortisol is made whether you are awake or asleep and I guess it really comes down to the length and quality of your sleep dictating whether you are actually ready to wake up or not.

Not getting enough sleep in itself would place stress on the adrenal glands.

There is an alarm clock called Lumi that switches a lamp on that gradually gets brighter during the last 30 minutes of sleep and claims to reduce sleep inertia. The light stimulates production of hormones that help us to get up and go, while suppressing those that bring on sleep.

Sorry but I don't know how to upload a picture and was actually trying to do this myself the other day.


1 like

Hi again,


These days I absolutely need an alarm, for the moment I have no rythm in my body that fits the working hours...

Yes that kind of lamp is great for many! Though, I use an eye mask since the sun sets at 11 pm and rises at 03 am... curtains is not enough if you also whant some oxygen;-)

I'll try to set up that homepage I've been thinking of...



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