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Sleep. 1991 Dec;14(6):511-6.

Timed exposure to bright light improves sleep and alertness during simulated night shifts.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry, Cornell University Medical College, White Plains, New York.


Many of the health and safety problems reported by shift workers result from the chronic sleep deprivation associated with shorter, fragmented daytime sleep. This reduction in the quality and duration of sleep has been attributed to a change in the phase relationship between the work period and the circadian system, timing the propensity for sleep and wakefulness. This study examined the extent to which appropriately timed exposure to bright light would accelerate the circadian readjustment of physiological parameters thought to contribute to impaired performance in shift workers. A control (n = 7) and treatment group (n = 6) underwent a 3-day transition to simulated night work. The treatment group received a single 4-hour pulse of bright light (6,000 lux) between 2400 and 0400 hours on the first night shift and dim light (less than 200 lux) for the remainder of the study. The control group received dim light throughout. By the third night shift, the phase position of the core body temperature rhythm for the treatment group had delayed by 5-6 hours whereas the control group had delayed by only 2-3 hours. When compared to the control group, the greater delay in core temperature rhythm for the treatment group was associated with significantly higher alertness across the night shift and improved sleep quality during the day. By the third day sleep, mean sleep efficiency in the treatment group was not significantly different from normal night sleep. Similarly, onshift alertness was improved relative to the control group. The treatment group did not show the typical decline in alertness observed in the control group between 0300 and 0700 hours. These data indicate that a single 4-hour pulse of bright light between midnight and 0400 hours is effective in ameliorating the sleep and alertness problems associated with transition to night shift.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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