Post awakening salivary cortisol secretion and trait well-being: The importance of sample timing accuracy.Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2015 Aug; 58:141-51.P
Indices of post awakening cortisol secretion (PACS), include the rise in cortisol (cortisol awakening response: CAR) and overall cortisol concentrations (e.g., area under the curve with reference to ground: AUCg) in the first 30-45 min. Both are commonly investigated in relation to psychosocial variables. Although sampling within the domestic setting is ecologically valid, participant non-adherence to the required timing protocol results in erroneous measurement of PACS and this may explain discrepancies in the literature linking these measures to trait well-being (TWB). We have previously shown that delays of little over 5 min (between awakening and the start of sampling) to result in erroneous CAR estimates. In this study, we report for the first time on the negative impact of sample timing inaccuracy (verified by electronic-monitoring) on the efficacy to detect significant relationships between PACS and TWB when measured in the domestic setting. Healthy females (N=49, 20.5±2.8 years) selected for differences in TWB collected saliva samples (S1-4) on 4 days at 0, 15, 30, 45 min post awakening, to determine PACS. Adherence to the sampling protocol was objectively monitored using a combination of electronic estimates of awakening (actigraphy) and sampling times (track caps). Relationships between PACS and TWB were found to depend on sample timing accuracy. Lower TWB was associated with higher post awakening cortisol AUCg in proportion to the mean sample timing accuracy (p<.005). There was no association between TWB and the CAR even taking into account sample timing accuracy. These results highlight the importance of careful electronic monitoring of participant adherence for measurement of PACS in the domestic setting. Mean sample timing inaccuracy, mainly associated with delays of >5 min between awakening and collection of sample 1 (median=8 min delay), negatively impacts on the sensitivity of analysis to detect associations between PACS and TWB.