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Preliminary evidence that light through the eyelids can suppress melatonin and phase shift dim light melatonin onset

Mariana G Figueiro* and Mark S Rea

Author Affiliations

Lighting Research Center, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, 21 Union Street, Troy, NY 12180, USA

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BMC Research Notes 2012, 5:221  doi:10.1186/1756-0500-5-221

Published: 7 May 2012

Abstract

Background

A previous study reported a method for measuring the spectral transmittance of individual human eyelids. A prototype light mask using narrow-band “green” light (λmax = 527 nm) was used to deliver light through closed eyelids in two within-subjects studies. The first study investigated whether an individual-specific light dose could suppress melatonin by 40% through the closed eyelid without disrupting sleep. The light doses were delivered at three times during the night: 1) beginning (while subjects were awake), 2) middle (during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep), and 3) end (during non-REM sleep). The second study investigated whether two individual-specific light doses expected to suppress melatonin by 30% and 60% and delivered through subjects’ closed eyelids before the time of their predicted minimum core body temperature would phase delay the timing of their dim light melatonin onset (DLMO).

Findings

Compared to a dark control night, light delivered through eyelids suppressed melatonin by 36% (p = 0.01) after 60-minute light exposure at the beginning, 45% (p = 0.01) at the middle, and 56% (p < 0.0001) at the end of the night. In the second study, compared to a dark control night, melatonin was suppressed by 25% (p = 0.03) and by 45% (p = 0.009) and circadian phase, as measured by DLMO, was delayed by 17 minutes (p = 0.03) and 71 minutes (ns) after 60-minute exposures to light levels 1 and 2, respectively.

Conclusions

These studies demonstrate that individual-specific doses of light delivered through closed eyelids can suppress melatonin and phase shift DLMO and may be used to treat circadian sleep disorders.

Keywords:
Dim light melatonin onset (DLMO); Light; Eyelid transmission; Circadian; Melatonin