Individual differences in the cortisol and salivary α-amylase awakening responses in early childhood: Relations to age, sex, and sleep

Melissa A. Bright, Janet E. Frick, Dorothee Out, Douglas A. Granger

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

17 Scopus citations

Abstract

Recent studies have examined post-waking changes in cortisol as a marker of HPA functioning, but questions remain about the stability of this response, as well as its relation to sleep and other ANS markers. The purposes of this study were to a) examine the presence and developmental changes in the cortisol awakening response (CAR) and salivary α-amylase awakening (sAA-AR) in a toddler sample and b) determine whether and how sleep relates to these responses in this age group. We measured cortisol and sAA upon awakening (and 30min post-waking) and sleep characteristics using actigraphy (e.g., total sleep time, sleep efficiency, number of awakenings) in toddlers (N=47; 36% female, ages 12-24 months). Forty-six percent of toddlers demonstrated a CAR and 52% demonstrated a sAA-AR. Strength of either response did not change linearly with age. Additionally, likelihood of demonstrating the CAR and sAA-AR was unrelated to age, sex, awakening time, time between samples, and time since feeding. Higher waking cortisol levels were associated with a shorter total sleep time and an earlier awakening. No associations were observed between sleep characteristics and the sAA-AR, ps>.05. Our findings suggest that these awakening responses function independently of sleep in toddlers. Additionally, the lack of change in percentage of children showing a CAR or sAA-AR across these ages suggests that these responses are stable and not emerging reliably across the second year of life.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1300-1315
Number of pages16
JournalDevelopmental psychobiology
Volume56
Issue number6
DOIs
StatePublished - Sep 2014

Keywords

  • Actigraphy
  • Cortisol awakening response
  • HPA axis
  • Infancy
  • Salivary alpha-amylase
  • Toddler

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Developmental Neuroscience
  • Developmental Biology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience

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