The effects of spectral tuning of evening ambient light on melatonin suppression, alertness and sleep

Shadab A Rahman, Melissa A St Hilaire, Steven W. Lockley

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92 Citations (Scopus)


We compared the effects of bedroom-intensity light from a standard fluorescent and a blue- (i.e., short-wavelength) depleted LED source on melatonin suppression, alertness, and sleep. Sixteen healthy participants (8 females) completed a 4-day inpatient study. Participants were exposed to blue-depleted circadian-sensitive (C-LED) light and a standard fluorescent light (FL, 4100 K) of equal illuminance (50 lx) for 8 h prior to a fixed bedtime on two separate days in a within-subject, randomized, cross-over design. Each light exposure day was preceded by a dim light (< 3 lx) control at the same time 24 h earlier. Compared to the FL condition, control-adjusted melatonin suppression was significantly reduced. Although subjective sleepiness was not different between the two light conditions, auditory reaction times were significantly slower under C-LED conditions compared to FL 30 min prior to bedtime. EEG-based correlates of alertness corroborated the reduced alertness under C-LED conditions as shown by significantly increased EEG spectral power in the delta-theta (0.5–8.0 Hz) bands under C-LED as compared to FL exposure. There was no significant difference in total sleep time (TST), sleep efficiency (SE%), and slow-wave activity (SWA) between the two conditions. Unlike melatonin suppression and alertness, a significant order effect was observed on all three sleep variables, however. Individuals who received C-LED first and then FL had increased TST, SE% and SWA averaged across both nights compared to individuals who received FL first and then C-LED. These data show that the spectral characteristics of light can be fine-tuned to attenuate non-visual responses to light in humans.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-229
Number of pages9
JournalPhysiology and Behavior
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Alertness
  • Circadian
  • Light
  • Melatonin
  • Sleep
  • Spectrum

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