A late wake time phase delays the human dim light melatonin rhythm

Neurosci Lett. 2006 Mar 13;395(3):191-5. doi: 10.1016/j.neulet.2005.10.082. Epub 2005 Nov 23.


Short sleep/dark durations, due to late bedtimes or early wake times or both, are common in modern society. We have previously shown that a series of days with a late bedtime phase delays the human dim light melatonin rhythm, as compared to a series of days with an early bedtime, despite a fixed wake time. Here we compared the effect of an early versus late wake time with a fixed bedtime on the human dim light melatonin rhythm. Fourteen healthy subjects experienced 2 weeks of short 6h nights with an early wake time fixed at their habitual weekday wake time and 2 weeks of long 9 h nights with a wake time that occurred 3h later than the early wake time, in counterbalanced order. We found that after 2 weeks with the late wake time, the dim light melatonin onset delayed by 2.4 h and the dim light melatonin offset delayed by 2.6 h (both p < 0.001), as compared to after 2 weeks with the early wake time. These results highlight the substantial influence that wake time, likely via the associated morning light exposure, has on the timing of the human circadian clock. Furthermore, the results suggest that when people truncate their sleep by waking early their circadian clocks phase advance and when people wake late their circadian clocks phase delay.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lighting
  • Male
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Wakefulness / physiology*


  • Melatonin