Dysregulated diurnal cortisol pattern and heightened night-time cortisol in individuals with bipolar disorder

Dahlia Mukherjee, J. Dylan Weissenkampen, Emily Wasserman, Caitlin E. Millett, Stephen Conway, Erika F.H. Saunders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Introduction: Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis dysregulation may contribute to the symptom burden in bipolar disorder (BD). Further characterization of cortisol secretion is needed to improve understanding of the connection between mood, sleep, and the HPA axis. Here, we observe diurnal cortisol patterns in individuals with BD and healthy controls (HCs) to determine time points where differences may occur. Methods: Salivary cortisol was measured at 6 time points (wake, 15, 30, and 45 min after wake, between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m. and 10:00 p.m.) for 3 consecutive days in individuals with symptomatic BD (N = 27) and HC participants (N = 31). A general linear model with correlated errors was utilized to determine if salivary cortisol changed differently throughout the day between the 2 study groups. Results: A significant interaction (F = 2.74, df = 5, and p = 0.02) was observed between the time of day and the study group (BD vs. HC) when modeling salivary cortisol over time, indicating that salivary cortisol levels throughout the day significantly differed between the study groups. Specifically, salivary cortisol in BD was elevated compared to HCs at the 10:00 p.m. time point (p = 0.01). Conclusion: Significantly higher levels of cortisol in participants with BD in the nighttime suggest that the attenuation of cortisol observed in healthy individuals may be impaired in those with BD. Reregulation of cortisol levels may be a target of further study and treatment intervention for individuals with BD.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)51-59
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry


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