Effects of nighttime low frequency noise on the cortisol response to awakening and subjective sleep quality

Life Sci. 2003 Jan 10;72(8):863-75. doi: 10.1016/s0024-3205(02)02336-6.


The effects of night-time exposure to traffic noise (TN) or low frequency noise (LFN) on the cortisol awakening response and subjective sleep quality were determined. Twelve male subjects slept for five consecutive nights in a noise-sleep laboratory. After one night of acclimatisation and one reference night, subjects were exposed to either TN (35dB L(Aeq), 50dB L(Amax)) or LFN (40dB L(Aeq)) on alternating nights (with an additional reference night in between). Salivary free cortisol concentration was determined in saliva samples taken immediately at awakening and at three 15-minute intervals after awakening. The subjects completed questionnaires on mood and sleep quality. The awakening cortisol response on the reference nights showed a normal cortisol pattern. A significant interaction between night time exposure and time was found for the cortisol response upon awakening. The awakening cortisol response following exposure to LFN was attenuated at 30 minutes after awakening. Subjects took longer to fall asleep during exposure to LFN. Exposure to TN induced greater irritation. Cortisol levels at 30 minutes after awakening were related to "activity" and "pleasantness" in the morning after exposure to LFN. Cortisol levels 30 minutes after awakening were related to sleep quality after exposure to TN. This study thus showed that night time exposure to LFN may affect the cortisol response upon wake up and that lower cortisol levels after awakening were associated with subjective reports of lower sleep quality and mood.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrocortisone / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Motor Vehicles
  • Noise, Transportation / adverse effects*
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / metabolism*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires


  • Hydrocortisone