Influence of light at night on melatonin suppression in children

J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2014 Sep;99(9):3298-303. doi: 10.1210/jc.2014-1629. Epub 2014 May 19.


Context: The sensitivity of melatonin to light suppression is expected to be higher in children because children have large pupils and pure crystal lenses. However, melatonin suppression by light in children remains unclear.

Objective: We investigated whether light-induced melatonin suppression in children is larger than that in adults.

Methods: Thirty-three healthy primary school children (mean age, 9.2 ± 1.5 y) and 29 healthy adults (mean age, 41.6 ± 4.7 y) participated in two experiments. In the first experiment, salivary melatonin concentrations in 13 children and 13 adults were measured at night under a dim light (<30 lux) and a moderately bright light (580 lux) in an experimental facility. Pupil diameters were also measured under dim light and bright light. In the second experiment, melatonin concentrations in 20 children and 16 adults were measured under dim light in the experimental facility and under room light at home (illuminance, 140.0 ± 82.7 lux).

Results: In experiment 1, the melatonin concentration was significantly decreased by exposure to moderately bright light in both adults and children. Melatonin suppression was significantly larger in children (88.2%; n = 5) than in adults (46.3%; n = 6; P < .01), although the data for some participants were excluded because melatonin concentrations had not yet risen. In experiment 2, melatonin secretion was significantly suppressed by room light at home in children (n = 15; P < .05) but not in adults (n = 11).

Conclusion: We found that the percentage of melatonin suppression by light in children was almost twice that in adults, suggesting that melatonin is more sensitive to light in children than in adults at night.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Child
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lens, Crystalline
  • Light / adverse effects*
  • Lighting / adverse effects*
  • Male
  • Melatonin / metabolism*
  • Middle Aged
  • Pineal Gland / metabolism
  • Pupil
  • Saliva / metabolism
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / etiology*


  • Melatonin