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Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2012 Jul;37(7):1086-95. doi: 10.1016/j.psyneuen.2011.12.005. Epub 2011 Dec 29.

Salivary cortisol and sleep problems among civil servants.

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The National Research Centre for Working Environment, Copenhagen, Denmark.



The present study used information from a field study conducted among 4489 civil servants (70% women) in Denmark in 2007. The purpose was to examine the association between sleep problems and salivary cortisol by using a cross-sectional design with repeated measures in a subsample three-month later.


Sleep problems during the past night and the past 4 weeks were assessed by a self-administered questionnaire on overall sleep quality, disturbed sleep, sleep length and awakening problems. Saliva samples were collected in a single day, using cotton tubes, 30 min after awakening and again at 2000 h. A subsample of 387 participants collected saliva samples three-month later at awakening, +20 min and +40 min after awakening and at 2000 h. We adjusted for confounders related to sampling time, life style and personal characteristics, socioeconomic status and work aspects.


Sleep problems during the past four weeks were associated with low morning and evening saliva cortisol concentrations: [-3.1% per score of disturbed sleep (p=.009); and -4.7% per score of awakening problems (p<.001)]. Whereas sleep problems were not related with slope (the morning to evening change in cortisol levels). Awakening problems predicted lower cortisol (-7.51% per score; p=.003) three-month later. Cortisol awakening response (CAR) and slope three-month later were significantly associated with disturbed sleep (-7.84% and -8.24%) and awakening problems (-6.93). Area under the curve (AUC(morning)) increased with disturbed sleep (3.77%).


Surprisingly, low morning cortisol was associated with increased sleep problems during a four-week period prior to sampling among 4066 Danish civil servants. At follow-up three-month later, those with sleep problems had a flattened cortisol profile. Those with awakening problems also had low salivary cortisol in general.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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