The impact of bright artificial white and ‘blue-enriched’ light on sleep and circadian phase during the polar winter

Delayed sleep phase (and sometimes free-run) is common in the Antarctic winter (no natural sunlight) and optimizing the artificial light conditions is desirable. This project evaluated sleep when using 17 000 K blue-enriched lamps compared with standard white lamps (5000 K) for personal and communal illumination. Base personnel, 10 males, five females, 32.5 ± 8 years took part in the study. From 24 March to 21 September 2006 light exposure alternated between 4–5-week periods of standard white (5000 K) and blue-enriched lamps (17 000 K), with a 3-week control before and after extra light. Sleep and light exposure were assessed by actigraphy and sleep diaries. General health (RAND 36-item questionnaire) and circadian phase (urinary 6-sulphatoxymelatonin rhythm) were evaluated at the end of each light condition. Direct comparison (rmanova) of blue-enriched light with white light showed that sleep onset was earlier by 19 min (P = 0.022), and sleep latency tended to be shorter by 4 min (P = 0.065) with blue-enriched light. Analysing all light conditions, control, blue and white, again provided evidence for greater efficiency of blue-enriched light compared with white (P < 0.05), but with the best sleep timing, duration, efficiency and quality in control natural light conditions. Circadian phase was earlier on average in midwinter blue compared with midwinter white light by 45 min (P < 0.05). Light condition had no influence on general health. We conclude that the use of blue-enriched light had some beneficial effects, notably earlier sleep, compared with standard white light during the polar winter.


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Authors: Mottram, Victoria, Middleton, Benita, Williams, Peter, Arendt, Josephine

1 January, 2011
Journal of Sleep Research / 20
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