Home lighting before usual bedtime impacts circadian timing: a field study

Photochem Photobiol. 2014 May-Jun;90(3):723-6. doi: 10.1111/php.12241.


Laboratory studies suggest that evening light before bedtime can suppress melatonin. Here, we measured the range of evening light intensity people can generate with their household lights, and for the first time determined if varying home light before usual bedtime can shift circadian phase. This was a 3-week study with two counterbalanced conditions separated by a 5-day break. In a dim week, eight healthy subjects minimized their home light exposure from 4 h before habitual bedtime until a self-selected bedtime. In a bright week, the subjects maximized their home lighting for the same time. The dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) was assessed after each week. On average subjects maximized their lights to approximately 65 lux and minimized their lights to approximately 3 lux. Wrist actigraphy indicated that subjects went to bed slightly later when lights were maximized (average 14 min later, P = 0.05), but wake time did not change. Every subject had a later DLMO after the week of maximum versus minimum light exposure (average 1:03 h later, P < 0.001). These results demonstrate that the light intensity people can generate at home in the few hours before habitual bedtime can alter circadian timing. People should reduce their evening light exposure to lessen circadian misalignment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lighting*
  • Male
  • Young Adult