The effects of bright light treatment on subjective and objective sleepiness during three consecutive night shifts among hospital nurses – a counter-balanced placebo-controlled crossover study
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionScandinavian Journal of Work, Environment and Health. 2021, 47 (2), 145-153. doi:10.5271/sjweh.3930
Objectives The objective was to investigate effects of timed bright light treatment on subjective and objective measures of sleepiness during three consecutive night shifts among hospital nurses. Methods Thirty-five nurses were exposed to bright light (10,000 lux) and red dim light (100 lux) during three consecutive night shifts in a counter-balanced crossover trial lasting nine days, which included three days before and three days after the three night shifts. Light exposure for 30 minutes was scheduled between 02:00–03:00 hours on night 1, and thereafter delayed by one hour per night in order to delay the circadian rhythm. Subjective sleepiness was measured daily (heavy eyelids, reduced performance) and every second hour while awake (Karolinska Sleepiness Scale, KSS). Objective sleepiness (Psychomotor Vigilance Task, PVT) was measured at 05:00 hours during each night shift. Beyond nocturnal light exposure on the night shifts, no behavioral restrictions or recommendations were given at or off work. Results Bright light treatment significantly reduced heavy eyelids during night shifts. However, results on KSS and PVT were unaffected by bright light. There were no differences in subjective sleepiness during the three days following the night shifts. Conclusions This bright light treatment protocol did not convincingly reduce sleepiness among nurses during three consecutive night shifts. Nor did bright light impede the readaptation back to a day-oriented rhythm following the night shift period. Too few consecutive night shifts, inappropriate timing of light, and possible use of other countermeasures are among the explanations for the limited effects of bright light in the present study.