Light can elicit both circadian and acute physiological responses in humans. In a dose response protocol men and women were exposed to illuminances ranging from 3 to 9100 lux for 6.5 h during the early biological night after they had been exposed to <3 lux for several hours. Light exerted an acute alerting response as assessed by a reduction in the incidence of slow-eye movements, a reduction of EEG activity in the theta-alpha frequencies (power density in the 5-9 Hz range) as well as a reduction in self-reported sleepiness. This alerting response was positively correlated with the degree of melatonin suppression by light. In accordance with the dose response function for circadian resetting and melatonin suppression, the responses of all three indices of alertness to variations in illuminance were consistent with a logistic dose response curve. Half of the maximum alerting response to bright light of 9100 lux was obtained with room light of approximately 100 lux. This sensitivity to light indicates that variations in illuminance within the range of typical, ambient, room light (90-180 lux) can have a significant impact on subjective alertness and its electrophysiologic concomitants in humans during the early biological night.