Short-wavelength attenuated polychromatic white light during work at night: Limited melatonin suppression without substantial decline of alertness

Maan van de Werken*, Marina C Giménez, Bonnie de Vries, Domien G M Beersma, Marijke C M Gordijn

*Corresponding author for this work

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Abstract

Exposure to light at night increases alertness, but light at night (especially short-wavelength light) also disrupts nocturnal physiology. Such disruption is thought to underlie medical problems for which shiftworkers have increased risk. In 33 male subjects we investigated whether short-wavelength attenuated polychromatic white light (<530 nm filtered out) at night preserves dim light melatonin levels and whether it induces similar skin temperature, alertness, and performance levels as under full-spectrum light. All 33 subjects participated in random order during three nights (at least 1 wk apart) either under dim light (3 lux), short-wavelength attenuated polychromatic white light (193 lux), or full-spectrum light (256 lux). Hourly saliva samples for melatonin analysis were collected along with continuous measurements of skin temperature. Subjective sleepiness and activation were assessed via repeated questionnaires and performance was assessed by the accuracy and speed of an addition task. Our results show that short-wavelength attenuated polychromatic white light only marginally (6%) suppressed salivary melatonin. Average distal-to-proximal skin temperature gradient (DPG) and its pattern over time remained similar under short-wavelength attenuated polychromatic white light compared with dim light. Subjects performed equally well on an addition task under short-wavelength attenuated polychromatic white light compared with full-spectrum light. Although subjective ratings of activation were lower under short-wavelength attenuated polychromatic white light compared with full-spectrum light, subjective sleepiness was not increased. Short-wavelength attenuated polychromatic white light at night has some advantages over bright light. It hardly suppresses melatonin concentrations, whereas performance is similar to the bright light condition. Yet, alertness is slightly reduced as compared with bright light, and DPG shows similarity to the dim light condition, which is a physiological sign of reduced alertness. Short-wavelength attenuated polychromatic white light might therefore not be advisable in work settings that require high levels of alertness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)843-854
Number of pages12
JournalChronobiology International
Volume30
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug-2013

Keywords

  • Adult
  • Circadian Rhythm
  • Humans
  • Light
  • Lighting
  • Male
  • Melatonin
  • Questionnaires
  • Saliva
  • Skin Temperature
  • Sleep
  • Time Factors
  • Wakefulness
  • Work Schedule Tolerance
  • Young Adult

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