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Chronobiol Int. 2009 May;26(4):726-39. doi: 10.1080/07420520902927809.

A personal light-treatment device for improving sleep quality in the elderly: dynamics of nocturnal melatonin suppression at two exposure levels.

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  • 1Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, New York 12180, USA.


Light treatment has been used as a non-pharmacological tool to help mitigate poor sleep quality frequently found in older people. In order to increase compliance to non-pharmacological light treatments, new, more efficacious light-delivery systems need to be developed. A prototype personal light-treatment device equipped with low brightness blue light-emitting diodes (LEDs) (peak wavelength near 470 nm) was tested for its effectiveness in suppressing nocturnal melatonin, a measure of circadian stimulation. Two levels of corneal irradiance were set to deliver two prescribed doses of circadian light exposure. Eleven older subjects, between 51 and 80 yrs of age who met the selection criteria, were exposed to a high and a low level of light for 90 min on separate nights from the personal light-treatment device. Blood and saliva samples were collected at prescribed times for subsequent melatonin assay. After 1 h of light exposure, the light-induced nocturnal melatonin suppression level was about 35% for the low-light level and about 60% for the high-light level. The higher level of blue light suppressed melatonin more quickly, to a greater extent over the course of the 90 min exposure period, and maintained suppression after 60 min. The constant exposure of the low-light level resulted in a decrease in nocturnal melatonin suppression for the last sampling time, whereas for the high-light level, suppression continued throughout the entire exposure period. The present study performed with healthy adults suggests that the tested personal light-treatment device might be a practical, comfortable, and effective way to deliver light treatment to those suffering from circadian sleep disorders; however, the acceptance and effectiveness of personal light-treatment devices by older people and by other segments of the population suffering from sleep disorders in a real-life situation need to be directly tested.

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