Background: A previous study reported a method for measuring the spectral transmittance of individual human eyelids. A prototype light mask using narrow-band "green" light (λmax = 527 nm) was used to deliver light through closed eyelids in two within-subjects studies. The first study investigated whether an individual-specific light dose could suppress melatonin by 40% through the closed eyelid without disrupting sleep. The light doses were delivered at three times during the night: 1) beginning (while subjects were awake), 2) middle (during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep), and 3) end (during non-REM sleep). The second study investigated whether two individual-specific light doses expected to suppress melatonin by 30% and 60% and delivered through subjects' closed eyelids before the time of their predicted minimum core body temperature would phase delay the timing of their dim light melatonin onset (DLMO).
Findings: Compared to a dark control night, light delivered through eyelids suppressed melatonin by 36% (p = 0.01) after 60-minute light exposure at the beginning, 45% (p = 0.01) at the middle, and 56% (p < 0.0001) at the end of the night. In the second study, compared to a dark control night, melatonin was suppressed by 25% (p = 0.03) and by 45% (p = 0.009) and circadian phase, as measured by DLMO, was delayed by 17 minutes (p = 0.03) and 71 minutes (ns) after 60-minute exposures to light levels 1 and 2, respectively.
Conclusions: These studies demonstrate that individual-specific doses of light delivered through closed eyelids can suppress melatonin and phase shift DLMO and may be used to treat circadian sleep disorders.