Your sweat can tell if you’re stressed, even burnt out

Wearable tech is the latest frontier in fitness. While we’ve had activity and heart rate trackers for a while now, scientists are developing a system that can detect and measure stress in your body.

We all have experienced our fair share of stress, the last 12 months in particular. We know that it affects our mood, our sleep patterns, even our weight.

But until now, stress has been difficult to scientifically quantify without the use of invasive blood, saliva, and urine tests. Even then, these only offer a snapshot of your cortisol (aka the stress hormone) levels in your body at that point in time.

A simple patch, created by engineers at Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne’s Nanoelectronic Devices Laboratory (Nanolab) and Xsensio, to detect cortisol levels in your sweat is currently in development and could prove to be a game-changer for constant monitoring of your stress levels.

It even has the potential to identify and stop burnout in its tracks.

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While cortisol helps the body respond to stressful situations, it is usually secreted according to the body’s circadian rhythm, peaking in the morning and decreasing in the evening.

But when your cortisol levels are out of whack, that’s when your sleep can be severely disrupted, among other things.

“If the body makes too much or not enough cortisol, that can seriously damage an individual’s health, potentially leading to obesity, cardiovascular disease, depression or burnout,” Adrian Ionescu, head of Nanolab said in a statement.

This highly sensitive patch, containing a transistor and electrode, immediately captures the cortisol hormone and measures its concentration in sweat.

“Because it can be worn, scientists can collect quantitative, objective data on certain stress-related diseases. And they can do so in a non-invasive, precise and instantaneous manner over the full range of cortisol concentrations in human sweat,” said Ionescu.

“Having a reliable, wearable system can help doctors objectively quantify whether a patient is suffering from depression or burnout, for example, and whether their treatment is effective. What’s more, doctors would have that information in real-time. That would mark a major step forward in the understanding of these diseases.”