Bright-light mask treatment of delayed sleep phase syndrome

J Biol Rhythms. 2002 Feb;17(1):89-101. doi: 10.1177/074873002129002366.


We treated delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS) with an illuminated mask that provides light through closed eyelids during sleep. Volunteers received either bright white light (2,700 lux, n = 28) or dim red light placebo (0.1 lux, n = 26) for 26 days at home. Mask lights were turned on (< 0.01 lux) 4 h before arising, ramped up for 1 h, and remained on at full brightness until arising. Volunteers also attempted to systematically advance sleep time, avoid naps, and avoid evening bright light. The light mask was well tolerated and produced little sleep disturbance. The acrophase of urinary 6-sulphatoxymelatonin (6-SMT) excretion advanced significantly from baseline in the bright group (p < 0.0006) and not in the dim group, but final phases were not significantly earlier in the bright group (ANCOVA ns). Bright treatment did produce significantly earlier phases, however, among volunteers whose baseline 6-SMT acrophase was later than the median of 0602 h (bright shift: 0732-0554 h, p < 0.0009; dim shift: 0746-0717 h, ns; ANCOVA p = 0.03). In this subgroup, sleep onset advanced significantly only with bright but not dim treatment (sleep onset shift: bright 0306-0145 h, p < 0.0002; dim 0229-0211 h, ns; ANCOVA p < .05). Despite equal expectations at baseline, participants rated bright treatment as more effective than dim treatment (p < 0.04). We conclude that bright-light mask treatment advances circadian phase and provides clinical benefit in DSPS individuals whose initial circadian delay is relatively severe.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Affect / physiology
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melatonin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Melatonin / urine
  • Photoperiod
  • Phototherapy* / adverse effects
  • Sleep / physiology*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome


  • 6-sulfatoxymelatonin
  • Melatonin