Artificial Outdoor Nighttime Lights Associate with Altered Sleep Behavior in the American General Population

Sleep. 2016 Jun 1;39(6):1311-20. doi: 10.5665/sleep.5860.


Study objectives: Our study aims to explore the associations between outdoor nighttime lights (ONL) and sleep patterns in the human population.

Methods: Cross-sectional telephone study of a representative sample of the general US population age 18 y or older. 19,136 noninstitutionalized individuals (participation rate: 83.2%) were interviewed by telephone. The Sleep-EVAL expert system administered questions on life and sleeping habits; health; sleep, mental and organic disorders (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition, Text Revision; International Classification of Sleep Disorders, Second Edition; International Classification of Diseases, 10(th) Edition). Individuals were geolocated by longitude and latitude. Outdoor nighttime light measurements were obtained from the Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's Operational Linescan System (DMSP/OLS), with nighttime passes taking place between 19:30 and 22:30 local time. Light data were correlated precisely to the geolocation of each participant of the general population sample.

Results: Living in areas with greater ONL was associated with delayed bedtime (P < 0.0001) and wake up time (P < 0.0001), shorter sleep duration (P < 0.01), and increased daytime sleepiness (P < 0.0001). Living in areas with greater ONL also increased the dissatisfaction with sleep quantity and quality (P < 0.0001) and the likelihood of having a diagnostic profile congruent with a circadian rhythm disorder (P < 0.0001).

Conclusions: Although they improve the overall safety of people and traffic, nighttime lights in our streets and cities are clearly linked with modifications in human sleep behaviors and also impinge on the daytime functioning of individuals living in areas with greater ONL.

Keywords: circadian rhythms; outdoor lights; sleep duration; sleep-wake schedule; sleepiness.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Chronobiology Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Chronobiology Disorders / etiology*
  • Chronobiology Disorders / physiopathology
  • Cities / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Geographic Mapping
  • Habits
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Lighting / adverse effects*
  • Lighting / statistics & numerical data*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep / physiology
  • Sleep / radiation effects*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / epidemiology*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / etiology*
  • Sleep Disorders, Circadian Rhythm / physiopathology
  • Telephone
  • United States / epidemiology
  • Young Adult