Daily rumination about stress, sleep, and diurnal cortisol activity

Michael R. Sladek, Leah Doane, Reagan S. Breitenstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Rumination is an involuntary cognitive process theorized to prolong arousal and inhibit proper emotion regulation. Most available research has examined individual differences in cognitive dispositions to ruminate about stress as a risk marker for psychopathology and other health problems. This intensive longitudinal study extended previous research by examining day-to-day associations of rumination about stress with objectively-measured actigraph-based sleep and diurnal salivary cortisol activity. Sixty-one healthy participants (Mage = 20.91) completed up to five ecological momentary assessments (EMA) each day and wore actigraph wristwatches for eight days (N = 488). On three of these days, participants provided five saliva samples assayed for cortisol (N = 910). On average, greater daily stress levels were associated with shorter sleep duration and higher waking cortisol levels. In day-to-day analyses, greater daily stress levels, when combined with ruminating about daily stress more than usual, was associated with higher waking cortisol levels the following morning. Ruminating more than usual about daily stress, in the context of low-stress days, was also associated with flatter diurnal cortisol slopes the next day. These findings highlight the potential influences of daily stress, and rumination about stress, on sleep and diurnal cortisol activity–two important markers of health and well-being.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-200
Number of pages13
JournalCognition and Emotion
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 17 2020


  • Rumination
  • actigraphy
  • daily diaries
  • diurnal cortisol
  • sleep

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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