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Clin Endocrinol (Oxf). 1998 Jan;48(1):73-9.

Bright light exposure and pituitary hormone secretion.

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Department of Gynaecology, St Thomas' Hospital, UMDS, London, UK.



Exposure to bright light inhibits melatonin secretion in man. As the relationship between melatonin and pituitary function remains controversial, we investigated the effect of altering the melatonin rhythm by bright light during the early hours of darkness on pituitary hormone secretion in man.


The investigation took the form of a randomized controlled clinical trial.


Ten adult healthy male volunteers, who were non-smokers and aged 21-33 years, were studied on two occasions: once during exposure to bright light from 2000 h to 0200 h and once during exposure to normal room lighting over the same period. On each day of the study, the subjects were allowed to sleep after lights were switched off at 0200 h. Observations were also performed when subjects were exposed to normal room lighting from 2000 h to 2400 h, thereafter being allowed to sleep. On each study day the subjects undertook their normal duties but refrained from taking heavy exercise and drinking alcohol.


Serum cortisol, GH and PRL, plasma vasopressin, oxytocin, melatonin, sodium, potassium and osmolality and packed cell volume were measured over 24 hours.


Bright light delayed the nocturnal melatonin peak by 2 hours and resulted in a decrease in cortisol concentrations. Growth hormone levels decreased but subsequently there was a significantly greater nocturnal increase. The PRL peak was delayed and nocturnal vasopressin concentrations were lower in both the studies where subjects were exposed to a modified sleep schedule.


Exposure to bright light during the early hours of darkness delays the nocturnal melatonin peak and alters cortisol, GH, PRL and nocturnal vasopressin secretion, while modification of the sleep pattern decreases vasopressin concentrations and alters its nocturnal peak.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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