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For many folks, combatting low energy can be an everyday occurrence. Feelings of fatigue can be overwhelming or stressful as symptoms of tiredness regress or spike throughout the day, creating a sense of instability. Maybe it’s the caffeine crash that happens promptly at 10 a.m. every morning or a midday slump that hits you like a ton of bricks at 4 p.m. Either way, uneven energy levels can be a real drag. 

So, what’s the culprit behind unstable energy levels? While a solid eight hours of sleep is always a good idea, there might be a more complex background to your fluctuating energy levels. The answer to these issues may be tied to stress — and more specifically your cortisol levels.

The good news? The latest technology allows for cortisol tests to be taken in the convenience of your own home. Many of these services also offer help with interpreting the data, and tips for maintaining more consistent energy levels. We’ve rounded up five great options for at-home cortisol tests — but first, let’s make sure you’re up to speed on all the ins and outs of cortisol levels.

What is cortisol and how does it work?

Cortisol is often known as a stress hormone, but it also impacts other functions in the body. In fact, this hormone is produced and released by the endocrine glands, adrenal glands, and even the kidneys. The cortisol produced by these organs works in concert with parts of the brain that control and influence mood, fear, and motivation.

This means that if your cortisol is too high — or too low — there may be adverse effects on both your body and mind. For starters, high cortisol levels can impair cognitive brain functions (aka decision making and focus), cause brain fog, directly affect sleep, and, as we’ve been discussing, affect energy levels. Interestingly, both high and low cortisol levels can both present as fatigue.

Why should you consider testing your cortisol levels?

If you experience any of the symptoms above — particularly disruptive sleep or prolonged wakefulness which can lead to dangerous health problems — it might be worth testing your cortisol levels in order to better support your energy. In truth, anyone who suspects their energy levels may be off is a good candidate for cortisol testing.

Assessing cortisol levels is important in order to narrow in on the most helpful support for your overall energy. Generally speaking, cortisol isn’t a bad hormone, but any imbalance can create some adverse effects on your quality of life. Clearing the air once and for all on your hormone levels can be eye-opening, and change your well-being for the better. Since both high and low cortisol levels can both present as fatigue, learning the results of a cortisol test can help you navigate your health with care, no matter where your levels are on the spectrum.

Our editors have hand-selected five at-home cortisol tests to support your energy. Read on for our top picks that are easy to use and offer helpful insights at a variety of price points.

1. Thorne

Best For | Anxiety or irritability
Results Include | Biomarker analysis, personalized health plan
Features | At-home saliva test, FSA/HSA cards accepted
Price | $156.00

Notice an uptick in stress lately? Tap Thorne. The at-home saliva test sheds light on stress response by analyzing biomarkers, measuring cortisol and DHEA, and hormone fluctuations. The test is simple: Collect a saliva sample, send the sample collection to Thorne’s laboratory, and receive your results from an independent, board-certified physician. What makes Thorne’s Stress Test unique is that every test comes with a personalized health plan that focuses on recommendations for activity levels, diet, and supplement recommendations. We’re already breathing a sigh of relief.

2. MyLabBox

Best For | Fast results
Results Include | Lab-certified (CAP and CLIA), cortisol and DHEA analysis
Features | At-home saliva test, FSA/HSA cards accepted, free shipping
Price | $149.00

If you suspect something is off with your energy levels and/or you are experiencing sleep issues, consider MyLabBox. Similar to other tests like Thorne, MyLabBox is an easy-to-use at-home saliva test that measures cortisol and DHEA levels. Results are lab-certified, private, HIPAA-compliant, and delivered straight to your inbox in one to five days. (Note: If you are a New York resident, MyLabBox is currently unavailable.)

3. InsideTracker

Best For | Folks seeking a detailed scope of biomarkers 
Results Include | 48 biomarkers, comprehensive analysis, personalized wellness plan
Features | Blood test
Price | $699.00

Gain knowledge and a deep understanding of your body’s cortisol levels with InsideTracker. Level up your well-being with an in-depth look at 48 biomarkers (including glucose, insulin, vitamin D, and more), physiological data insights, and personalized, actionable recommendations based on your health.

InsideTracker is a fully HIPAA-compliant blood test, and blood can be drawn at a Quest lab or at-home with a certified phlebotomist in a mobile unit. From there, you’ll be guided to complete a detailed personal profile with a spotlight on nutrition, exercise, and lifestyle preferences. After results are assessed, users will receive science-backed and personalized recommendations, goals and action plans, plus a check-in and progress tracking. Check out our full review of InsideTracker here.

4. Everlywell

Best For | Women-identifying folks experiencing hormonal imbalance
Results Include | A focus on women’s hormone analysis
Features | Comprehensive hormone panel, blood sample and saliva sample collection, CLIA lab-certified
Price | $249.00 ($211.00 with a semi-annual subscription)

Are you woman-identified and looking for key hormone analysis? Everlywell can help. This HIPAA-compliant test focuses on 11 biomarkers and analyzes hormones that can affect a woman in any stage of life (including cortisol, DHEA, and many more). The test is straightforward: Take a sample of saliva and a small finger prick of blood, mail in your collection, and receive results in one to five days. They also offer a number of at-home tests for all kinds of folks, metrics, and diseases.

5. ZRT

Best For | Specific questions about sleep-wake patterns
Results Include | Four or six tube collection analysis, cortisol and DHEA analysis
Features | Saliva and urine testing, FSA/HSA cards accepted
Price | $135.00+

ZRT provides hormone testing that targets different moments in your day. Depending on the kind of testing you seek, a saliva cortisol test or a urine cortisol test will assess levels in your cortisol, DHEA, and epinephrine/norepinephrine and measure the response of said hormones at various points in your 24-hour sleep cycle.

Note that ZRT kits are typically ordered in conjunction with a medical professional and the lab-certified results will be prepared for a doctor to analyze, as opposed to many of the at-home tests above that offer customized results. For those with specific questions about their sleeping and waking habits, ZRT may be the way to go.

Featured image by Everlywell