Exploration of basal diurnal salivary cortisol profiles in middle-aged adults: associations with sleep quality and metabolic parameters.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2008 Feb; 33(2):143-51.P
The use of saliva samples is a practical and feasible method to explore basal diurnal cortisol profiles in free-living research. This study explores a number of psychological and physiological characteristics in relation to the observed pattern of salivary cortisol activity over a 12-h period with particular emphasis on sleep. Basal diurnal cortisol profiles were examined in a sample of 147 volunteers (mean age 46.21+/-7.18 years). Profiles were constructed for each volunteer and explored in terms of the area under the curve (AUC) of the cortisol-awakening response with samples obtained immediately upon waking (0, 15, 30 and 45 min post waking) and at 3, 6, 9 and 12h post waking to assess diurnal decline. Diurnal mean of cortisol was based on the mean of cortisol at time points 3, 6, 9 and 12h post waking. Psychological measures of perceived stress and sleep were collected with concurrent biological assessment of fasting plasma glucose, insulin, blood lipids and inflammatory markers. Blunted cortisol profiles, characterised by a reduced AUC, were observed in the majority (78%) of a middle-aged sample and were associated with significantly poorer sleep quality and significantly greater waist-hip ratio (WHR). Blunted cortisol profiles were further associated with a tendency to exhibit a less favourable metabolic profile. These findings suggest that reduced cortisol secretion post waking may serve as an additional marker of psychological and biological vulnerability to adverse health outcomes in middle-aged adults.