Shifts of the hormonal rhythms of melatonin and cortisol after a 4 h bright-light pulse in different diurnal types

Barbara Griefahn, Christa Kuenemund, Sibylle Robens
Chronobiology International 2006, 23 (3): 659-73
If applied during corresponding times of the individual melatonin profiles, bright light shifts the circadian phase equally, irrespective of diurnal type. We examined 32 young men: 10 morning types, 11 evening types, and 11 with no predisposition; 16 with high and 16 with low melatonin production. Each completed a 40 h session that included two consecutive nights during which the participants remained, apart from two short breaks during the second day, in bed under an illumination level of 30 lux. A 4 h bright light pulse was applied just after the expected individual melatonin onset the first night to cause a delay of the hormonal profile the second night. Salivary levels of melatonin and cortisol were determined hourly. Melatonin was delayed by 108 min, and cortisol offset and onset by 47 and 110 min, respectively. The cortisol quiescent period (start and end of the quiescent period being defined by the decrease below and the increase above 60% of the average cortisol production between 18:00 and 09:00 h) was prolonged. In contrast to the other subgroups, the delay of melatonin synthesis was about 0.5 h shorter in morning types, and their cortisol quiescent period was shortened. The present study leads to the hypothesis that, despite individually scheduled light exposure, morning types are potentially disadvantaged due to elevated cortisol levels, if persisting, in career night workers.

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