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Chronobiol Int. 2010 Jul;27(6):1242-58. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2010.487965.

Evening daylight may cause adolescents to sleep less in spring than in winter.

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


Sleep restriction commonly experienced by adolescents can stem from a slower increase in sleep pressure by the homeostatic processes and from phase delays of the circadian system. With regard to the latter potential cause, the authors hypothesized that because there is more natural evening light during the spring than winter, a sample of adolescent students would be more phase delayed in spring than in winter, would have later sleep onset times, and because of fixed school schedules would have shorter sleep durations. Sixteen eighth-grade subjects were recruited for the study. The authors collected sleep logs and saliva samples to determine their dim light melatonin onset (DLMO), a well-established circadian marker. Actual circadian light exposures experienced by a subset of 12 subjects over the course of 7 days in winter and in spring using a personal, head-worn, circadian light measurement device are also reported here. Results showed that this sample of adolescents was exposed to significantly more circadian light in spring than in winter, especially during the evening hours when light exposure would likely delay circadian phase. Consistent with the light data, DLMO and sleep onset times were significantly more delayed, and sleep durations were significantly shorter in spring than in winter. The present ecological study of light, circadian phase, and self-reported sleep suggests that greater access to evening daylight in the spring may lead to sleep restriction in adolescents while attending school. Therefore, lighting schemes that reduce evening light in the spring may encourage longer sleep times in adolescents.

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