Out of the Lab and Into the Bathroom: Evening Short-Term Exposure to Conventional Light Suppresses Melatonin and Increases Alertness Perception

Int J Mol Sci. 2013 Jan 28;14(2):2573-89. doi: 10.3390/ijms14022573.


Life in 24-h society relies on the use of artificial light at night that might disrupt synchronization of the endogenous circadian timing system to the solar day. This could have a negative impact on sleep-wake patterns and psychiatric symptoms. The aim of the study was to investigate the influence of evening light emitted by domestic and work place lamps in a naturalistic setting on melatonin levels and alertness in humans. Healthy subjects (6 male, 3 female, 22-33 years) were exposed to constant dim light (<10 lx) for six evenings from 7:00 p.m. to midnight. On evenings 2 through 6, 1 h before habitual bedtime, they were also exposed to light emitted by 5 different conventional lamps for 30 min. Exposure to yellow light did not alter the increase of melatonin in saliva compared to dim light baseline during (38 ± 27 pg/mL vs. 39 ± 23 pg/mL) and after light exposure (39 ± 22 pg/mL vs. 44 ± 26 pg/mL). In contrast, lighting conditions including blue components reduced melatonin increase significantly both during (office daylight white: 25 ± 16 pg/mL, bathroom daylight white: 24 ± 10 pg/mL, Planon warm white: 26 ± 14 pg/mL, hall daylight white: 22 ± 14 pg/mL) and after light exposure (office daylight white: 25 ± 15 pg/mL, bathroom daylight white: 23 ± 9 pg/mL, Planon warm white: 24 ± 13 pg/mL, hall daylight white: 22 ± 26 pg/mL). Subjective alertness was significantly increased after exposure to three of the lighting conditions which included blue spectral components in their spectra. Evening exposure to conventional lamps in an everyday setting influences melatonin excretion and alertness perception within 30 min.