Date of Completion

Spring 5-1-2023

Thesis Advisor(s)

Dr. Crystal Park

Honors Major

Physiology and Neurobiology


Stress is a constant, ongoing occurrence in our lives, and research has given us further understanding of the health implications it has. Cortisol has been explored as a biomarker of stress, and high levels of it can lead to further health problems. Cancer is a life-changing disease and can have varying impacts on one’s emotional and physical health. Cancer diagnosis and treatment is a stressful experience, and stress is known to impact other aspects of health, such as sleep. The importance of sleep quality on our proper bodily functioning is well known. Given how essential sleep is to our health, a disruption in sleep may also be connected to stress levels, which also may impact our health. There are many different potential moderators that may influence the relationship between stress and sleep. Two moderators explored in this study are emotion regulation and social support. We studied cancer survivors, due to the particular challenges they experience during and after treatment.. This study sought to examine the moderating strength of emotion regulation and social support on the relationship between cortisol levels and sleep disturbance in cancer survivors. In this study, 576 participants who had been diagnosed with breast, prostate, or colorectal cancer completed questionnaires over five time points, over the course of a year, reporting psychosocial resources, coping, and multiple domains of wellbeing. Participants also provided hair and nail samples for cortisol measurements. Results did not show a relationship between cortisol and sleep disturbance. Results did not show that social support or emotion regulation were significant moderators of the relationship between cortisol and sleep disturbance in cancer survivors. Results did show that emotion regulation and social support were independently associated with sleep disturbance. The study showed that there are important factors related to cancer survivors’ health and well-being.