10.01.2014 - Study examines the relation of cortisol and α-amylase awakening responses to sleep in toddlers

Author: Bright MA, et al. (2014) Dev Psychobiol.

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

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 30 min 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. 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.

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