Reducing elevated night time cortisol

Discussion started by Maff , on Tuesday, 05 July 2011 19:51

After ASI testing showed I had elevated levels of cortisol at night time - which explained my inability to go to bed/sleep until the early hours - I decided to search online for supplements or medications that could lower cortisol and hopefully give me a better night's sleep.


I kept coming across a nutrient known as phosphatidylserine (PS) which is a phospholipid (fatty substance) and component of cellular membranes. It is often suggested for various cognitive difficulties. It also appears to lower cortisol levels in the body. I like to backup what I read on regular sites by checking research studies and I found plenty to support this e.g.





I have found that taking 200-400mg of PS an hour before going to bed gives me the kind of relaxed, sleepy feeling I have not experienced for years. I usually lie in bed at 12 feeling wired! It allows me to fall asleep easily. Unfortunately I do not feel like I am getting more restful sleep as I would expect if it were lowring my cortisol levels through the night. Still a good supplement though.


Does anyone know of other methods of lowering raised night time cortisol besides PS and good sleep hygiene?



I have adrenal fatigue with insomnia and have found niacinamide, magnesium, potassium and calcium to be helpful. I would suggest trying them seperately to figure out which you might need. I am now attuned to what I need based on my symptoms. I also take melatonin and tryptophan.
924 days ago
Annie - I should have added that other conditions such as sleep apnea, allergies or chemical sensitivities could be other possible reasons why you wake up during the night. Have you considered these? I appreciate these would be pretty obvious but just thought they were worth mentioning. Low-level chemical sensitivities in particular might fly under the radar.
989 days ago
Hi there,

Glad you found us! It sounds like you have been doing a lot of the right things so you have obviously been busy doing some research on this.

I would personally switch to caffeine-free green tea or a naturally caffeine-free herbal tea as caffeine is exactly what you don't want when you have sleep problems and possibly adrenal fatigue. You can always get some l-theanine supplements if you feel this helps.

Have you tried melatonin supplements? These work great for me for both getting me off to sleep and keeping me asleep during the night. In theory it should also help to normalize circadian rhythms so that cortisol is produced in the right amounts at the right times during the day.

I would say hypoglycemia is one of the main reasons people wake up during the night - at least people who have adrenal fatigue or problems with blood sugar regulation for other reasons. You have things a little mixed up as insulin and cortisol have opposing actions when it comes to blood sugar regulation. Insulin lowers blood sugar levels further as it increases uptake of glucose by the cells. Cortisol causes liberation of stored glucose (glycogen) and promotes gluconeogenesis (the production of glucose from fats and amino acids) and therefore raises blood sugar levels. If you become hypoglycemic during the night your body sees that as a threat and initiates the stress response with the release of hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. It would be the immediate effects of adrenaline that would be likely to wake you up rather than cortisol which kicks in slower. Before that of course the symptoms of hypoglycemia themselves would likely wake you since the brain is starved of fuel and the brain regulates sleep. Anything you can do to keep blood sugar levels more stable are likely to improve sleep in my experience.

A few of us have considered using Seriphos but I have found it hard to source in the UK and have been using regular phosphatidylserine with good results. I hope you'll let us know how you get on with it. Hope it helps!

989 days ago
annie annie
Hello, I recently found this discussion group while searching on night time cortisol surges, which I have suffered from for over a year. I did not realize for a long time what was really going on. I just thought it was stress or mental activity waking me. I did not think of the biological underpinnings until recently and I am now working on a nutritional program to reset my cortisol activity to normal, which would be high levels at 6-8 am. I've done a lot of research but I am still struggling with an exact protocol so I thought I might post here a few of my ideas and questions.

getting to sleep and staying asleep seem to be two different issues. some people suffer from one or the other, some suffer from both. I am mostly suffering from waking up between 3-5 am and not being able to go back to sleep. I am now certain this is cortisol. I have not taken a test. The heart rate activity and sensation is the same as a stress reaction that you might have during the day.

I have recently discovered and am taking the seriphos at night now. I have only tried it for a few days. This is supposed to work by re-sensitizing the pineal gland to cortisol secretion, so as your levels are going up, the pineal senses it, and stops sending the hormone to the adrenals to produce cortisol.

during the day I am often so tired yet I am working taking things during the day to feel better and help normalize my system. drinking a lot of water I think is important.
> I have begun a habit of drinking 4 cups of water upon waking each day before consuming anything else. It seems to be helping.
> it also seems important to eliminate caffeine since it can elevate cortisol for hours. I used to drink lattes every day and that is part of waht got me into this mess, I am sure.
> I have still been drinking green tea. there seems to be some controversy around green tea. it has caffeine, though lower than the amounts in coffee, but many say it is great for normalizing cortisol because it contains theanine. if anyone has an opinion as to if green tea spikes cortisol levels or evens them, I would be interested.
>I am also adding regular hourly doses of vitamin C, as I hear the adrenals when exhausted need the vitamin C.
> meditation is supposed to help control cortisol, so I am meditating more. since I am often tired, meditating is just about the only thing I can do at some points besides lie on the couch. (argh)

I am wondering about eating before bed. Some say that the reason for the cortisol surge, is that when you go hypoglycemic at night, when your blood sugar drops, an insulin surge happens and that insulin surge triggers a release of cortisol. Or perhaps the low blood sugar levels trigger the cortisol release and the insulin happens simultaneously. I am not sure. So some have told me to eat something before bed in an effort to not go low blood sugar at night. I would welcome anyone's opinion on this and what would be best to eat? if it is something that spikes insulin, would that cause a blood sugar trend that would likely wake me? I wish I understood the mechanism better...

I am still not sleeping through the night. If anyone has further ideas for me, I would be appreciative. Diet recommendations, dos and don'ts, anything would be helpful. thanks.
989 days ago
Yeah I've come across this. A product known as SeriPhos is recommended in 'The Mood Cure' by Julia Ross and that contains phosphorylated serine as opposed to regular PS. I am not sure if there is any evidence it is actually more effective or not or if these sources are just going on theory and/or clinical experience. All the studies I have looked at used regular PS and found 400mg to be the optimum dose. Seems to work well enough. Worth trying phosphorylated to compare though, it doesn't seem to be much more expensive. Let me know if you decide to give it a go!
1004 days ago
Maff - I was reading "Feeling Fat, Fuzzy, or Frazzled" and the authors recommend phosphorylated and NOT phosphatidyl serine. Notice I said phosphorylated, not a typo. They mentioned that although phosphatidyl serine was much more available as a supplement, phosphorylated serine was much more effective at the task of lowering cortisol.

I also found a website here ( that attempts to explain why you would want one over the other. Not sure how convincing the case is, but something to consider.
1005 days ago
Georgie - I have seen inositol work well on its own, and usually use it right before bed. As Maff mentioned, this may have nothing to do with cortisol levels, but it works! The PS I take earlier in the evening, and definitely notice that it has a calming effect, ensuring my energy levels go down as the evening progresses and not up (as they tended to do in the past).

And totally agree with Maff: I have seen 200mg as a solid dosage for seeing results. After a month or so, even 100mg seems to be working well.
1008 days ago
Georgie - Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to your questions on this thread - very busy with the site as a whole and also seeing doctors etc. I have not noticed any change in the amount of PS required to get the same effect as time has gone by. To be honest I find 200mg is enough to induce a feeling of relaxation and help get me off to sleep (good news as PS is expensive!). I think the study found 400mg was more effective at actually lowering cortisol and that above that dose provided no extra benefit? What I'm unsure about is whether the relaxation effect induced by taking PS at night is entirely due to reducing elevated cortisol levels or if there are other mechanisms at work as well. I agree it would be good to hear from someone who has had cortisol levels tested before and after a period of using PS at night.

nontoxic4u - Good suggestions, thanks. I find melatonin helps me get off to sleep more quickly much like PS does. Magnesium is also very relaxing - but I have found only when I get it via epsom salts baths - oral supplements in their various forms do nothing for me. How do the rest of you get on with these two?

TheStache - Glad to here you have got some good results with that combination of supplements. Inositol is a natural tranquiliser and if my memory serves me correctly it works by potentiating GABA activity rather than through any affect on cortisol. Of course it may affect cortisol indirectly as all these things are linked through the HPA-axis and stress response.
1008 days ago
Hi Stach, you mentioned that you have low cortisol problems in your post, I use the PS for high nightime levels, I wonder if the PS is a stabilizing cortisol levels rather than lowereing or in your case raising, also does your inositol help with anxiety without the PS or is it working with it?
1009 days ago
I take sublingual melatonin, phosphatidylserine, and powdered inositol in the evening. Over the course of a few months this regiment has really helped me regulate sleep and conteract insomnia.

I am not positive about inositol and its ability to lower cortisol, but it has helped me greatly with the anxiety and panic attacks I was prone to having in the evening. Getting to sleep and staying asleep is now much more relaxing.

As far as a dosage for melatonin, I tend to take as much as needed until I fall asleep. How much is required seems to fluctuate wildly on any given day, anywhere from 0mg to 5mg.
1009 days ago
melatonin and magnesuim. good luck
1013 days ago
Hey matt I did question my friend some more on the humanafort stuff and he started another regeime of meditation when he started takeing the humana stuff so it could have been that also, the maker of the stuff said it reduces nightime cotisol but you cant trust the makers as we know. He never did a nightime cortisol test before and after to validate, .oh crap, but the nice thing about this forum is talking to people like you that actually had some success with things like the PS, i wonder if anyone actually took the cortisol tests before and after taking ps and could quantifiy the drop , the artical above did say there was no more benifit past 400mg I believe.
1014 days ago
Hey Matt, I wanted to ask you if you found that you have to take more PS now or less , a body building friend of mine said that he started at larger doses and found he had to take less after a time, what was your experience, although Im still waiting for my order of non-soy PS my same friend told me about this stuff called humanafort that is used by body builders to lower nightime cortisol , he switched from PS to this and said he felt more relaxed at night, extreme body builders suffer from nightime elevated cortisols and are constantly trying to find stuff to blunt it.
Thanks and let me know
1015 days ago
Hi Georgie,

Apologies for that error - I abbreviated it correctly to PS but had in fact initially type phosphatidylcholine instead of phophatidylserine! I've now corrected it in the original post.

I personally have never been bothered by soy, unlike gluten and casein which cause huge brain fog and a drugged sensation soon after I consume foods containing them. Soy is a very common allergen and it has also been shown to form opioid-like molecules if it is not digested completely, just like gluten and casein.If you suffer with soy for either reason then soy-derived PS supplements may very well cause problems for you.

In theory PS should be PS so it doesn't matter whether the source is soy or sunflower (presumably the seeds?). It should have the same effects either way. I'd certainly say it's worth a try.
1018 days ago
Hi Matt ,Ok I will post here next time, your suggestion above says phosphatidylcholine not PhosphatidylSERINE but I read the link and it explained , its an easy mistake, but can I ask you if you are sensitive to SOY I feel bad after eating various soy products so Im wondering if theres enough soy in the phosphatidylserine to cause a reaction, do you feel any side effects from the soy in it? I did search and found a new NON-soy phosphatidylsterine but dont know if it produces the same results lowering cortisols as its supposed to but I will let you know as I ordered some,the link is below incase,
and if anyone has tryed this sunflower based stuff could you let me know.
1019 days ago

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