Blue-Enriched Morning Light as a Countermeasure to Light at the Wrong Time: Effects on Cognition, Sleepiness, Sleep, and Circadian Phase

Neuropsychobiology. 2016;74(4):207-218. doi: 10.1159/000477093. Epub 2017 Jun 22.


Light during the day and darkness at night are crucial factors for proper entrainment of the human circadian system to the solar 24-h day. However, modern life and work styles have led to much more time spent indoors, often with lower daytime and higher evening/nighttime light intensity from electrical lighting than outdoors. Whether this has long-term consequences for human health is being currently investigated. We tested if bright blue-enriched morning light over several days could counteract the detrimental effects of inadequate daytime and evening lighting. In a seminaturalistic, within-between subject study design, 18 young participants were exposed to different lighting conditions on 3 evenings (blue-enriched, bright orange, or dim light), after exposure to 2 lighting conditions (mixed blue-enriched light and control light, for 3 days each) in the mornings. Subjective sleepiness, reaction times, salivary melatonin concentrations, and nighttime sleep were assessed. Exposure to the blue-enriched morning lighting showed acute wake-promoting effects and faster reaction times than with control lighting. Some of these effects persisted until the evening, and performance improved over several days. The magnitude of circadian phase shifts induced by combinations of 3 different evening and 2 morning lighting conditions were significantly smaller with the blue-enriched morning light. During the night, participants had longer total sleep times after orange light exposure than after blue light exposure in the evening. Our results indicate that bright blue-enriched morning light stabilizes circadian phase, and it could be an effective counterstrategy for poor lighting during the day and also light exposure at the wrong time, such as in the late evening.

Keywords: Blue-enriched light; Circadian system; Light history; Melanopsin; Sleep cycles.