Different patterns of light exposure in relation to melatonin and cortisol rhythms and sleep of night workers

M Koller, M Härma, J T Laitinen, M Kundi, B Piegler, M Haider
Journal of Pineal Research 1994, 16 (3): 127-35
There is strong evidence to suggest that circadian psychophysiological adaptation processes are modified by light, depending on its intensity and timing. To characterize such modifications and determine whether they are associated with an alteration in the day/night pattern of melatonin excretion, measurements were obtained around the clock in 14 permanent night workers, each studied over a 48 hr period in the field. The light exposure behavior of these workers was studied with a newly developed light dosimetry by measuring light intensity at eye level. Physical activity was continuously registered and sleep indices were obtained by sleep logs and activity markings. Circadian rhythms of melatonin and cortisol were analysed from salivary samples collected for 24 hr at 2 hr intervals. The interindividual variation of melatonin acrophase determined by cosinor analysis was greater than 180 degrees (from around midnight to noon) and that of cortisol was about 135 degrees (from early morning to afternoon). Hormonal phase positions coincided significantly with light exposure: the more bright light pulses in the morning (maximum lux between 0600 and 0900), the less were the melatonin and cortisol acrophases shifted into the day. There was also a negative correlation between melatonin acrophase shift and duration of the overall light exposure above 1500 lux. Morning light maximum and sleep onset correlated highly significantly. Night workers were divided into those with less than ('non-shifters', n = 9) and more than 6 hr deviation from midnight ('shifters', n = 5) of the melatonin acrophase. The group comparison revealed a marked difference of the mean melatonin concentrations at night, and at 0700.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

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