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Chronobiol Int. 2014 Nov;31(9):976-82. doi: 10.3109/07420528.2014.937491. Epub 2014 Jul 15.

Association between light exposure at night and insomnia in the general elderly population: the HEIJO-KYO cohort.

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  • 1Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, Nara Medical University School of Medicine , Nara , Japan.


Chronic circadian misalignment between the internal and environmental rhythms, which is typically related to night-shift work and clock-gene variants, is associated with disruption of suprachiasmatic nucleus function and increased risk of insomnia. Under controlled laboratory conditions, light at night (LAN) suppresses melatonin secretion, delays the internal biological rhythm, and reduces sleepiness. Therefore, LAN exposure may cause circadian misalignment and insomnia, though it remains unclear in real-life situations whether LAN exposure is associated with insomnia. To evaluate an association between LAN exposure and sleep quality in home settings, we conducted a cross-sectional community-based study in 857 elderly individuals (mean age, 72.2 years). We evaluated bedroom light intensity using a light meter and subjectively and objectively measured sleep quality using the Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index and an actigraph, respectively, along with urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin excretion. Compared with the lowest quartile group of LAN intensity, the highest quartile group revealed a significantly higher odds ratio (OR) for subjective insomnia in a multivariate model adjusted for age, gender, body mass index, daytime physical activity, urinary 6-sulfatoxymelatonin excretion, bedtime, rising time, and day length (adjusted OR, 1.61, 95% confidence interval, 1.05-2.45, p=0.029). In addition, higher OR for subjective insomnia was significantly associated with the increase in quartiles of LAN intensity (ptrend=0.043). Consistently, we observed significant association trends between the increase in quartiles of LAN intensity and poorer actigraphic sleep quality, including decreased sleep efficiency, prolonged sleep-onset latency, increased wake-after-sleep onset, shortened total sleep time, and delayed sleep-mid time in multivariate models adjusted for the covariates mentioned above (all ptrend<0.001). In conclusion, we demonstrated that LAN exposure in home settings is significantly associated with both subjectively and objectively measured sleep quality in a community-based elderly population.


Actigraphy; circadian rhythms; insomnia; light at night; melatonin; sleep quality

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