Since cortisol helps to regular our circadian rhythm, or sleep/wake cycle, it is important for waking us up in the mornings. For this reason, on average cortisol typically peaks between 6-8 am or about 30 minutes after waking up for 50-60% of the population. If you are testing prior to that time immediately upon waking, it is possible your cortisol is still on the rise. Try testing a little later in the morning or a little longer after waking and see if your results increase, if they do then your testing time is likely contributing to your cortisol results.
The adrenals are small hormone-secreting glands located on each of your kidneys. They are our "stress regulators" and they do this by producing adrenaline and cortisol. The more stress you experience, the harder your adrenals must work to protect you and they produce more cortisol. Adrenal exhaustion can develop when a person is always highly stressed and eventually the adrenals can't keep up by making more cortisol, leading to low morning cortisol levels and fatigue.
It is important to understand your particular lifestyle, diet, stress levels and sleep/wake cycle to fully understand cortisol levels. When cortisol levels consistently test low in the morning combined with fatigue, body aches, unexplained weight loss, low blood pressure, lightheadedness, loss of body hair and skin discoloration, we recommend you speak with your doctor about your results and these concerns.
This article has been authored by Lauren Lehmkuhl and peer reviewed by Sinead Adedipe and Mikaela Frame.