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Chronobiol Int. 2014 Apr;31(3):349-55. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2013.855226. Epub 2013 Nov 13.

The hockey-stick method to estimate evening dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) in humans.

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1
Institute of Internal and Preventive Medicine and.

Abstract

The onset of melatonin secretion in the evening is the most reliable and most widely used index of circadian timing in humans. Saliva (or plasma) is usually sampled every 0.5-1 hours under dim-light conditions in the evening 5-6 hours before usual bedtime to assess the dim-light melatonin onset (DLMO). For many years, attempts have been made to find a reliable objective determination of melatonin onset time either by fixed or dynamic threshold approaches. The here-developed hockey-stick algorithm, used as an interactive computer-based approach, fits the evening melatonin profile by a piecewise linear-parabolic function represented as a straight line switching to the branch of a parabola. The switch point is considered to reliably estimate melatonin rise time. We applied the hockey-stick method to 109 half-hourly melatonin profiles to assess the DLMOs and compared these estimates to visual ratings from three experts in the field. The DLMOs of 103 profiles were considered to be clearly quantifiable. The hockey-stick DLMO estimates were on average 4 minutes earlier than the experts' estimates, with a range of -27 to +13 minutes; in 47% of the cases the difference fell within ±5 minutes, in 98% within -20 to +13 minutes. The raters' and hockey-stick estimates showed poor accordance with DLMOs defined by threshold methods. Thus, the hockey-stick algorithm is a reliable objective method to estimate melatonin rise time, which does not depend on a threshold value and is free from errors arising from differences in subjective circadian phase estimates. The method is available as a computerized program that can be easily used in research settings and clinical practice either for salivary or plasma melatonin values.

PMID:
24224578
DOI:
10.3109/07420528.2013.855226
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
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