The adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and produce a variety of hormones, including adrenaline (epinephrine), cortisol and aldosterone. These hormones play an important role in our sleep-wake cycle, stress response, energy availability, immune function, blood volume and electrolyte balance.
Afternoon sleepiness is the hallmark of Adrenal Fatigue, a diagnosis frequently used by providers in the Integrative/Functional Medicine realm. Insomnia and lightheadedness upon standing are also common symptoms and others can emerge in more severe cases even in the absence of adrenal failure which is known as Addison’s disease. Expert opinion (and sometimes saliva testing) is useful in choosing appropriate interventions. As always, we make a point of considering the underlying cause. This can be as simple as skipping breakfast but may involve chronic infectious agents or dysfunction elsewhere in the endocrine system.