Bright Light Exposure at Night and Light Attenuation in the Morning Improve Adaptation of Night Shift Workers

Sleep. 2002 May 1;25(3):351-6.


With practical applicability in mind, we wanted to observe whether nocturnal alertness, performance, and daytime sleep could be improved by light exposure of tolerable intensity and duration in a real work place. We also evaluated whether attenuating morning light was important in adaptation of real night shift workers. Twelve night shift nurses participated in this study. The study consisted of three different treatment procedures: Room Light (RL), Bright Light (BL), and Bright Light with Sunglasses (BL/S). In RL, room light exposure was given during the night shift and followed by 1 hr exposure to sunlight or 10,000 lux light the next morning (from 08:30 to 09:30). In BL, a 4-hour nocturnal light exposure of 4,000-6,000 lux (from 01:00 to 05:00) was applied and followed by the same morning light exposure as in RL. In BL/S, the same nocturnal light exposure as in BL was done with light attenuation in the morning. Each treatment procedure was continued for 4 days in a repeated measures, cross-over design. Nocturnal alertness was measured by a visual analog scale. Computerized performance tests were done. Daytime sleep was recorded with actigraphy. The most significant overall improvement of sleep was noted in BL/S. BL showed less improvement than BL/S but more than RL. Comparison of nocturnal alertness among the 3 treatments produced similar results: during BL/S, the subjects were most alert, followed by BL and then by RL. Real night shift workers can improve nocturnal alertness and daytime sleep by bright light exposure in their work place. These improvements can be maximized by attenuating morning light on the way home.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Physiological*
  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Light*
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / therapy*