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J Sleep Res. 1998 Sep;7(3):145-57.

Evening administration of melatonin and bright light: interactions on the EEG during sleep and wakefulness.

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Psychiatric University Clinic, Basel, Switzerland.


Both the pineal hormone melatonin and light exposure are considered to play a major role in the circadian regulation of sleep. In a placebo- controlled balanced cross-over design, we investigated the acute effects of exogenous melatonin (5 mg p.o. at 20.40 hours) with or without a 3-h bright light exposure (5000 lux from 21.00 hours-24.00 hours) on subjective sleepiness, internal sleep structure and EEG power density during sleep and wakefulness in healthy young men. The acute effects of melatonin, bright light and their interaction were measured on the first day (treatment day), possible circadian phase shifts were assessed on the post-treatment day. On the treatment day, the evening rise in subjective sleepiness was accelerated after melatonin and protracted during bright light exposure. These effects were also reflected in specific changes of EEG power density in the theta/alpha range during wakefulness. Melatonin shortened and bright light increased sleep latency. REMS latency was reduced after melatonin administration but bright light had no effect. Slow-wave sleep and slow-wave activity during the first non-rapid eye movement (NREMS) episode were suppressed after melatonin administration and rebounded in the second NREMS episode, independent of whether light was co-administered or not. Self rated sleep quality was better after melatonin administration whereas the awakening process was rated as more difficult after bright light. On the post-treatment day after evening bright light, the rise in sleepiness and the onset of sleep were delayed, independent of whether melatonin was co-administered or not. Thus, although acute bright light and melatonin administration affected subjective sleepiness, internal sleep structure and EEG power density during sleep and wakefulness in a additive manner, the phase shifting effect of a single evening bright light exposure could not be blocked by exogenous melatonin.

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