Wavelength-dependent effects of evening light exposure on sleep architecture and sleep EEG power density in men

Light strongly influences the circadian timing system in humans via non-image-forming photoreceptors in the retinal ganglion cells. Their spectral sensitivity is highest in the short-wavelength range of the visible light spectrum as demonstrated by melatonin suppression, circadian phase shifting, acute physiological responses, and subjective alertness. We tested the impact of short wavelength light (460 nm) on sleep EEG power spectra and sleep architecture. We hypothesized that its acute action on sleep is similar in magnitude to reported effects for polychromatic light at higher intensities and stronger than longer wavelength light (550 nm). The sleep EEGs of eight young men were analyzed after 2-h evening exposure to blue (460 nm) and green (550 nm) light of equal photon densities (2.8 x 10(13) photons x cm(-2) x s(-1)) and to dark (0 lux) under constant posture conditions. The time course of EEG slow-wave activity (SWA; 0.75-4.5 Hz) across sleep cycles after blue light at 460 nm was changed such that SWA was slightly reduced in the first and significantly increased during the third sleep cycle in parietal and occipital brain regions. Moreover, blue light significantly shortened rapid eye movement (REM) sleep duration during these two sleep cycles. Thus the light effects on the dynamics of SWA and REM sleep durations were blue shifted relative to the three-cone visual photopic system probably mediated by the circadian, non-image-forming visual system. Our results can be interpreted in terms of an induction of a circadian phase delay and/or repercussions of a stronger alerting effect after blue light, persisting into the sleep episode.
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