Daytime bright light exposure, metabolism, and individual differences in wake and sleep energy expenditure during circadian entrainment and misalignment

Neurobiol Sleep Circadian Rhythms. 2018 Jan:4:49-56. doi: 10.1016/j.nbscr.2017.12.002. Epub 2017 Dec 29.


Daytime light exposure has been reported to impact or have no influence on energy metabolism in humans. Further, whether inter-individual differences in wake, sleep, 24 h energy expenditure, and RQ during circadian entrainment and circadian misalignment are stable across repeated 24 h assessments is largely unknown. We present data from two studies: Study 1 of 15 participants (7 females) exposed to three light exposure conditions: continuous typical room ~100 lx warm white light, continuous ~750 lx warm white light, and alternating hourly ~750 lx warm white and blue-enriched white light on three separate days in a randomized order; and Study 2 of 14 participants (8 females) during circadian misalignment induced by a simulated night shift protocol. Participants were healthy, free of medical disorders, medications, and illicit drugs. Participants maintained a consistent 8 h per night sleep schedule for one week as an outpatient prior to the study verified by wrist actigraphy, sleep diaries, and call-ins to a time stamped recorder. Participants consumed an outpatient energy balance research diet for three days prior to the study. The inpatient protocol for both studies consisted of an initial sleep disorder screening night. For study 1, this was followed by three standard days with 16 h scheduled wakefulness and 8 h scheduled nighttime sleep. For Study 2, it was followed by 16 h scheduled wake and 8 h scheduled sleep at habitual bedtime followed by three night shifts with 8 h scheduled daytime sleep. Energy expenditure was measured using whole-room indirect calorimetry. Constant posture bedrest conditions were maintained to control for energy expenditure associated with activity and the baseline energy balance diet was continued with the same exact meals across days to control for thermic effects of food. No significant impact of light exposure was observed on metabolic outcomes in response to daytime light exposure. Inter-individual variability in energy expenditure was systematic and ranged from substantial to almost perfect consistency during both nighttime sleep and circadian misalignment. Findings show robust and stable trait-like individual differences in whole body 24 h, waking, and sleep energy expenditure, 24 h respiratory quotient-an index of a fat and carbohydrate oxidation-during repeated assessments under entrained conditions, and also in 24 h and sleep energy expenditure during repeated days of circadian misalignment.

Keywords: Biological day; Biological night; Shift work.