Purpose: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is the second leading cause of cancer mortality worldwide. Sleep problems are common in HCC patients and may be attributable to disturbances in the circadian rhythm. Research into the role of circadian rhythms in sleep quality among HCC patients is lacking, however. This study investigated the relationship between the diurnal cortisol profile and sleep quality among HCC patients. We aimed to identify alterations in the diurnal cortisol profile in patients with HCC compared to healthy controls and investigate whether they were associated with poor sleep quality among HCC patients. Methods: Participants comprised 75 HCC patients and 33 healthy individuals. The Taiwanese version of the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI-T) was administered to assess sleep quality. Saliva samples were collected on 3 consecutive days at five time points daily to measure diurnal cortisol levels. Results: In the HCC group, 89.3% of individuals were poor sleepers (PSQI-T > 5), whereas among healthy individuals, 30.3% were poor sleepers. While the healthy participants’ diurnal cortisol profile followed a typical pattern that peaked 30 min after waking and declined gradually throughout the day, the cortisol level in the HCC patients rebounded at bedtime. Higher cortisol levels were marginally correlated with poor sleep quality (OR = 1.00007, p <.05). Conclusions: Our study suggests a potential association between disturbed circadian rhythm and poor sleep quality in HCC patients. Further investigation of the causal relationship between sleep and circadian rhythm is warranted.
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