Short Blue Light Pulses (30 Min) in the Morning Support a Sleep-Advancing Protocol in a Home Setting.

Research paper by Moniek M Geerdink, Thijs J TJ Walbeek, Domien G M DG Beersma, Vanja V Hommes, Marijke C M MC Gordijn

Indexed on: 28 Jul '16Published on: 28 Jul '16Published in: Journal of biological rhythms


Many people in our modern civilized society sleep later on free days compared to work days. This discrepancy in sleep timing will lead to so-called 'social jetlag' on work days with negative consequences for performance and health. Light therapy in the morning is often proposed as the most effective method to advance the circadian rhythm and sleep phase. However, most studies focus on direct effects on the circadian system and not on posttreatment effects on sleep phase and sleep integrity. In this placebo-controlled home study we investigated if blue light, rather than amber light therapy, can phase shift the sleep phase along with the circadian rhythm with preservation of sleep integrity and performance. We selected 42 participants who suffered from 'social jetlag' on workdays. Participants were randomly assigned to either high-intensity blue light exposure or amber light exposure (placebo) with similar photopic illuminance. The protocol consisted of 14 baseline days without sleep restrictions, 9 treatment days with either 30-min blue light pulses or 30-min amber light pulses in the morning along with a sleep advancing scheme and 7 posttreatment days without sleep restrictions. Melatonin samples were taken at days 1, 7, 14 (baseline), day 23 (effect treatment), and day 30 (posttreatment). Light exposure was recorded continuously. Sleep was monitored through actigraphy. Performance was measured with a reaction time task. As expected, the phase advance of the melatonin rhythm from day 14 to day 23 was significantly larger in the blue light exposure group, compared to the amber light group (84 min ± 51 (SD) and 48 min ± 47 (SD) respectively; t36 = 2.23, p < 0.05). Wake-up time during the posttreatment days was slightly earlier compared to baseline in the blue light group compared to slightly later in the amber light group (-21 min ± 33 (SD) and +12 min ± 33 (SD) respectively; F1,35 = 9.20, p < 0.01). The number of sleep bouts was significantly higher in the amber light group compared to the blue light group during sleep in the treatment period (F1,32 = 4.40, p < 0.05). Performance was significantly worse compared to baseline at all times during (F1,13 = 10.1, p < 0.01) and after amber light treatment (F1,13 = 17.1, p < 0.01), while only in the morning during posttreatment in the blue light condition (F1,10 = 9.8, p < 0.05). The data support the conclusion that blue light was able to compensate for the sleep integrity reduction and to a large extent for the performance decrement that was observed in the amber light condition, both probably as a consequence of the advancing sleep schedule. This study shows that blue light therapy in the morning, applied in a home setting, supports a sleep advancing protocol by phase advancing the circadian rhythm as well as sleep timing.