Time-of-day effects in arousal : disrupted diurnal cortisol profiles in children with ADHD
Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences
Journal of child psychology and psychiatry and allied disciplines. - Oxford
, p. 782-789
University of Antwerp
Background: Fluctuations in attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms related to regulatory deficits in arousal states are themselves characterized by circadian rhythms. Although cortisol is an important circadian arousal-related marker, studies focusing on across-the-day cortisol variations in ADHD are scarce. There is no study with multiple measurements to take into account interday and intraday variability. Methods: Salivary cortisol was sampled five times a day (awakening, 30 min after awakening, noon, 4 p.m., 8 p.m.) across five consecutive days in 33 children with ADHD (22 with and 11 without oppositional defiant disorder; ODD) and 33 class- and sex-matched controls (aged 612). The cortisol awakening response (increase from awakening to 30 min after awakening) and the diurnal cortisol profile (across-the-day variations) were compared for ADHD with ODD (ADHD + ODD) and without ODD (ADHD) subgroups and the control group. Results: The cortisol awakening response was not significantly different between groups. However, longitudinal analyses to evaluate cortisol profiles across the day revealed a significant Group x Time effect (p < .001). More specifically, compared to each other, the ADHD subgroup showed a flatter slope with relative morning hypo-arousal and evening hyperarousal, whereas the ADHD + ODD subgroup showed a steeper slope with relative morning hyperarousal and evening hypo-arousal (p < .001). Conclusions: Findings support time-related arousal disruptions in children with ADHD associated with the presence or absence of ODD comorbidity. We recommend research on cortisol in larger samples for a better understanding of arousal mechanisms involved in ADHD not only with and without ODD but also with other comorbidities which may have implications for timing of arousal-based treatments.