To determine whether a diurnal rhythm exists in neonates admitted to neonatal intensive care units where there is continuous artificial lighting and periodic nursing and medical care, plasma cortisol, adrenocorticotropin (ACTH), and beta-endorphin concentrations were measured in two groups of infants and in adult human volunteers. As expected, a diurnal rhythm was seen in adults. A diurnal rhythm was also found for cortisol and endorphin levels in neonates (3 to 4 days postnatally) with minimal stress and in infants who were clinically severely stressed. There was not a significant difference between the morning and afternoon concentrations of ACTH in these infants, but the afternoon concentrations were lower than the morning's, as would be expected. We found that a diurnal rhythm does exist in neonates within the first few days of postnatal life and that the continuous lighting and medical and nursing interventions do not interfere with this rhythm.