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Free Content Weak relationships between suppression of melatonin and suppression of sleepiness/fatigue in response to light exposure

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In this paper we examine the relationship between melatonin suppression and reduction of sleepiness through light by comparing three different data sets. In total 36 subjects participated in three studies and received 4 h of bright light either from midnight till 4:00 hours (experiments A and B) or from noon till 16:00 hours (experiment C). In experiment A (night-time light, partial illumination of the retina, pupil dilated) subjects were exposed to either 100 lx of ocular light on the temporal, 100 lx on the nasal part of the retina, or <10 lx of dim light on the whole retina. In experiments B (night-time light, whole retina, pupil not dilated) and C (daytime light, whole retina, pupil not dilated) subjects were exposed either to bright (5000 lx) or to dim light (<10 lx). Subjective sleepiness/fatigue and melatonin concentrations in saliva were assessed hourly in all three experiments. For experiment A, a significant suppression of melatonin due to nasal and temporal illumination of the retina was found, that was not accompanied by a detectable reduction of subjective sleepiness/fatigue. For experiment B we found a suppression of melatonin that was paralleled with a significant reduction in subjective sleepiness, but not in fatigue. During experiment C we found no melatonin suppression but a reduction of subjective sleepiness, but also no effect on fatigue. From these data we conclude that the effects of light on sleepiness/fatigue are not mediated by melatonin and that the influence of endogenous melatonin concentration on sleepiness/fatigue is restricted.
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Keywords: bright light; melatonin; night time and daytime exposure; subjective sleepiness

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 September 2005

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