It may be common but it’s not normal

At my women’s retreat, one topic that is often spoken about is women who wake up around three o’clock in the morning every single night and they just can’t figure out what’s going wrong. Now, there’s a few things that could be happening, but there are two things that really stand out for these women in particular.

At three o’clock in the morning, our liver is actually detoxifying. So if a woman keeps waking up all the time at this, at this stage of their sleep, then it’s an indication that the liver is struggling to detoxify or offload for the night. This may be a cause for concern as far as insulin sensitivity, and women definitely need to be getting their blood glucose levels checked in case of fatty liver disease. But before fatty liver disease is even present, many other things are happening. Fatty liver disease is the disease of the liver when the liver has not been able to get rid of the excess sugar and fat in the body, and then that fat starts to hold onto the liver, making the liver very sluggish and then it’s not able to function. But before you get to fatty liver disease, other things are already happening and your body has probably been talking to you for a long time. Maybe you just didn’t listen to the signs and signals.

Insulin is a peptide hormone that is produced in the pancreas and is designed to chaperone glucose into the cells to produce energy. But if there’s too much glucose in the blood then that glucose keeps floating around the body until it is stored in the liver and fat cells, ideally to be used later but it can end up toxic if stored in excess.

One big reason that this could be happening, especially in women, is that your cortisol levels are too high. Cortisol is an insulin antagonist which means that it prevents insulin from being produced in an attempt to access the stored glucose in response to cortisol telling the body that it is stressed and stress primally means famine, fight or flight.

Cortisol is recognised as our stress hormone. It’s our fight or flight response to life. It can be elevated if we have had trauma. If we live a lifestyle that’s way too busy for us to handle, or if we live in a very stressful environment. In my experience it’s very common for women to take on way too much compared to what they’re capable of doing and this leads to elevated stress.  When cortisol is always elevated, it in turn depletes the adrenals. What actually happens when we have high cortisol or adrenal fatigue is our baseline of cortisol has had to elevate to an extent that’s way beyond our capacity to produce the hormone to be able to function optimally. Cortisol is naturally produced in the adrenals at around about 6:00 AM in the morning, and its job is literally to wake us up to get us started for the day.

Cortisol is what keeps us alive. It’s super important, but when we abuse our body or when we live in a stressful environment, then cortisol is always producing to keep us going or as a fight or flight response, the base level of that cortisol is elevated just to get us up in the morning, and ultimately then our adrenals dry out or they just cannot produce the amount of cortisol we require to get up and go, which then makes us feel very tired, fatigued, and burnt out, but we feel tired and wired.

If this sounds like you, then chances are your insulin is also being affected, and chances are your body is insulin resistant or your glucose levels are too high because your body cannot in turn produce the insulin required to hold onto the glucose in your blood to pop it into your cells and produce energy, and instead, your body ends up depleted and it wakes you up at three o’clock in the morning a hot, stressed mess. You may feel hungry, you may feel wired and tired as soon as you wake up at that time, and you may not be able to get back to sleep.

Since this happens to an already stressed person they often don’t act on it quickly or seek the help they need and instead turn to poor habits to cope. We need to recognise that being overstressed all the time is a sure fire way to ending up with lifelong diseases. And the very first thing we need to do is take care of is ourselves. If we are not taking care of ourselves, if we are not prioritising our own health and wellness first, there’s no way we can ever take care of anybody else.

So what are some things that we can do to help us a sleep through the night so that our body can rest, repair, regenerate? And what are some things that we can do to make sure that our body can produce insulin so that we can utilise the glucose in the system and turn it into energy?

Circadian rhythm

Our body is designed as a 24 hour clock, and we are designed to wake up at six o’clock in the morning with cortisol. When we get up, the first thing we should do as cortisol comes in is sit in silence, even if it’s just for a minute. By sitting in silence, we come into our body naturally. You want to avoid putting any bright lights on in the morning and definitely avoid using any type of device. So keep your phone, TV and radio off when you first get up in the morning and just enjoy the natural environment that you live in. If it’s possible, I encourage you to go outside without any glasses on and enjoy the sun coming up whatever time of day it is. By doing this, it actually encourages for those rays to hit your eyeballs and in your eyeballs you have receptors that are connected directly to the brain and this is going to start to set up your natural circadian rhythm for the day throughout the day.


Whole foods to me are foods that have not been tampered with. So real food consists of one ingredient and it is in its whole form. Food that has more than one ingredient has been tampered with. We want to resist eating them in our everyday existence and only look to foods with more than one ingredient as a rare treat. Nourish your body with food from nature every single day.  Veer towards good sustainable foods that are high in protein, high in fat, and deeply nutritious. Obviously things like fruit, vegetables, natural oils, and meat is what I’m talking about.

The food that you eat is turned into energy in the body, but if you’re eating foods that have one more than one ingredient in them, then your body has to sift through those toxins first before you get any nutrient value from it. So if you eat anything out of a packet, know that your body has to work over time just to get any goodness from that product and the toxins are stored in your cells, which is why I choose whole food, always above packet food. When it comes to insulin, we are really talking about sugar. So  it’s important that you are living a low sugar lifestyle. Sugar really is the enemy when it comes to longevity and good health and sugar puts a heck of a lot of stress on the body when we consume it.


If you already know, because you’re waking up at three o’clock in the morning that the body is stressed, you definitely don’t want to be consuming any foods that are gonna add to that stress. So you want be looking to mainly vegetables and meat, nuts and seeds for my everyday consumption. Some vegetables that are really powerful if you have insulin resistance or if you are stressed, are high fibre vegetables in the brascillius family. So I’m looking at broccoli, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, and dark leafy greens. They are the perfect combination of foods that are actually going help you clean out your body and help your liver function optimally. And remember when the liver is functioning optimally, then you get to sleep through the night and wake up more refreshed because you’re able to offload any toxins efficiently as you sleep.


If you are waking up at three o’clock in the morning, you definitely want to be avoiding alcohol for an extended period of time. While alcohol may feel like it helps you relax and it can be the go-to source of letting go for many people, at the end of the day, it actually puts your body into a fight or flight response, which is why if you have a heavy night of drink, you’ll often pass out because of the sedentary nature of the alcohol, and then because of the high sugar capacity in alcohol, you will end up waking up between 1:00 AM and 3:00 AM once your body is  having to offload all of the excess sugar. Alcohol definitely is not your friend if you already feel high stress. Instead consuming things like chamomile tea, maca, cacao, reishi or a hot chocolate and magnesium before you go to bed are actually gonna set you up for better rest and help lower your stress.

Fatty liver disease, as I mentioned, is the end result of long-term chronic stress on the body. One in three Australians have fatty liver, and although it’s more common in people with high blood pressure, high cholesterol type two diabetes, or people who are overweight, it is also common in people in in women with P C O S and women who are highly stressed. Fatty liver disease is the absolute end result, and you can find out whether or not you have fatty liver disease through a blood test. But before you end up with fatty liver disease, you definitely want to be listening to your body for any signs and symptoms of stress.

Of course, checking in with your GP is the easiest way to get your blood test done to find out if you have fatty liver disease. But it’s also important to note that the levels that they’re checking for are only to see if you are going to survive. Your doctor is not looking for levels that are showing whether or not you are thriving or whether or not you are optimally healthy. So even if your GP tells you that your markers are okay and you don’t have fatty liver disease, that is not a reason to sit on the sidelines and do nothing about the stress response that you are having in your body. So as well as food, rest, relaxation and meditation, exercise is one of the most important factors that can contribute to maintaining a good liver.


Now, as human beings, we are designed to be moving for eight to 10 hours every single day, but the reality of it is many of us are sitting down for eight to 10 hours a day or longer, and we may only be moving very slightly for an hour or two a day, and that may just be incidental movement of walking to the car, walking to work, doing the shopping and things like that. And while incidental movement is super important, it must be practiced consistently throughout the day for it to really have any benefit. So if you are a person who has a sit down job, one of the best things you can do is set yourself an alarm on your computer every half an hour and get up and move, whether that’s going to the bathroom, getting yourself a drink, or even just standing at your desk instead of sitting down and actively walking on the spot while you do your work.

While these things may seem slightly inconvenient and difficult to start to program into your day, what’s even more inconvenient is dying early. So let’s not beat around the bush. Exercising every single day with incidental movement is absolutely key, but we also must absolutely be taking part in active exercise classes a minimum of four times a week. So exercises that are going help reduce stress, improve liver function and help you sleep better are things like running, swimming, brisk walking and load bearing exercises. So load-bearing exercises could be Pilates on a machine, hand weights, gym weights, or something similar like that.

What happens as we get older, and the reason that these sleep cycles tend to be disrupted as we get older is that our body slows down. But metabolically, our bodies should not slow down until we’re 60 years of age. So if you can already feel the effects of your body slowing down because your cortisol levels are high and or your liver is not functioning optimally, then the only reason this is happening is because you have chosen a lifestyle that has created those issues.

That can be a very difficult pill to swallow. And we could all come up with many reasons and many excuses that we are not living a life that encourages us to be optimally healthy. But ultimately, the choice is yours as an individual. So my suggestion is, if you are not sleeping through the night, if you are highly stressed, if you feel that your liver may not be working well because you get hungry or hangry very easily, or you know that you are eating too much sugar, too many carbohydrates, drinking too much booze, then you absolutely must be doing things to prevent those lifestyle choices ending up with lifelong diseases that are ultimately going kill you or at the least make you miserable.

In conclusion

So what I want you to take away from this is that you must be exercising every single day with a minimum of four days where you are loading up or where you are adding load to the exercise regime. You want to be eating whole foods in their natural form and the best quality foods you can get your hands on at every single meal. And if you choose to eat packet food, I invite you to ask yourself, what is your intention with that food? Why is it that you are choosing to put something in your body that is toxic and poisonous rather than nourishing your body? Why don’t you feel that you deserve wellness? And lastly, you want to be managing your stress. It’s one of the hardest things that we do because we live in a very high stress environment, but lowering stress can be something as simple as getting up in the morning and just taking a couple of minutes to sit with yourself in silence.

Or it can be something as simple as reading a novel before you go to bed and putting the devices away early, making sure that you’re not reaching out for a glass of wine before you go to bed or or a nighttime snack because those things are not fulfilling and they will only lead to more stress in the body. So nourishing your body with thoughtful actions and intentional eating are absolutely key, and you absolutely can improve the function of your liver naturally, get rid of fatty liver disease, and even get your liver to be working optimally all the time. You can also lower your cholesterol and your blood pressure by simply taking on these lifestyle choices, and you will never need to be on any medication if you follow this protocol.

The way that you show up in the world is your choice. It’s not always easy to be consistent, but it’s the one thing that you absolutely do have control over. And most of the time, we intuitively know what it is that we are doing to self sabotage, and it’s really important that we take responsibility for the self, especially if we have family and children and somebody or somebody that we need to show up for because the actions that you take every day are being watched by somebody who you love and you wanna make sure that the actions that you take are the ones that you wish for that person to take as well.

I really hope that this article has given you some ideas and strategies to move forwards towards better health because in the end, your health is all you have.

If you resonate with this article and you want to make positive changes in your health with the support of a personalised program you can learn more about my 90 day to better health program by emailing me the word ‘BETTER’ and I will reach out to you.

Or if you are ready to spend the day pampering, nourishing and giving back to yourself then check out our retreat schedule on our sister website  Retreats run on the shoulder seasons and cater to small groups of women just like you.