Intermittent bright light and exercise to entrain human circadian rhythms to night work

Am J Physiol. 1999 Dec;277(6):R1598-604. doi: 10.1152/ajpregu.1999.277.6.R1598.


Bright light can phase shift human circadian rhythms, and recent studies have suggested that exercise can also produce phase shifts in humans. However, few studies have examined the phase-shifting effects of intermittent bright light, exercise, or the combination. This simulated night work field study included eight consecutive night shifts followed by daytime sleep/dark periods (delayed 9 h from baseline). There were 33 subjects in a 2 x 2 design that compared 1) intermittent bright light (6 pulses, 40-min long each, at 5,000 lx) versus dim light and 2) intermittent exercise (6 bouts, 15-min long each, at 50-60% of maximum heart rate) versus no exercise. Bright light and exercise occurred during the first 6 h of the first three night shifts. The circadian phase marker was the demasked rectal temperature minimum. Intermittent bright-light groups had significantly larger phase delays than dim-light groups, and 94% of subjects who received bright light had phase shifts large enough for the temperature minimum to reach daytime sleep. Exercise did not affect phase shifts; neither facilitating nor inhibiting phase shifts produced by bright light.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Acclimatization / physiology*
  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Darkness
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Lighting
  • Male
  • Photoperiod
  • Phototherapy*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Work Schedule Tolerance / physiology*