The cortisol awakening response (CAR) in 2- to 4-year-old children: effects of acute nighttime sleep restriction, wake time, and daytime napping.

Research paper by Colleen E CE Gribbin, Sarah Enos SE Watamura, Alyssa A Cairns, John R JR Harsh, Monique K MK Lebourgeois

Indexed on: 29 Sep '11Published on: 29 Sep '11Published in: Developmental Psychobiology


The cortisol awakening response (CAR) is presumed critically important for healthy adaptation. The current literature, however, is hampered by systematic measurement difficulties relative to awakening, especially with young children. While reports suggest the CAR is smaller in children than adults, well-controlled research in early childhood is scarce. We examined whether robust CARs exist in 2- to 4-year-old children and if sleep restriction, wake timing, and napping influence the CAR (n = 7). During a 25-day in-home protocol, researchers collected four salivary cortisol samples (0, 15, 30, 45 min post-wake) following five polysomnographic sleep recordings on nonconsecutive days after 4 hr (morning nap), 7 hr (afternoon nap), 10 hr (evening nap), 13 hr (baseline night), and 16 hr (sleep restriction night) of wakefulness (20 samples/child). The CAR was robust after nighttime sleep, diminished after sleep restriction, and smaller but distinct after morning and afternoon (not evening) naps. Cortisol remained elevated 45 min after morning and afternoon naps. .