1361627_Robertson-Dixon,I_2023.pdf (4.25 MB)
The Influence of Light Wavelength on Human HPA Axis Rhythms: A Systematic Review
journal contributionposted on 2023-11-15, 05:30 authored by Isabella Robertson-DixonIsabella Robertson-Dixon, Melanie MurphyMelanie Murphy, Sheila CrewtherSheila Crewther, Nina RiddellNina Riddell
Environmental light entrains many physiological and behavioural processes to the 24 h solar cycle. Such light-driven circadian rhythms are centrally controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which receives information from the short-wavelength-sensitive intrinsically photosensitive retinal ganglion cells. The SCN synchronizes local clocks throughout the body affecting sleep/wake routines and the secretion of neuroendocrine-linked hormones such as melatonin from the pineal gland and cortisol via the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis. Although the effects of light parameters on melatonin have been recently reviewed, whether the experimental variation of the spectral power distribution and intensity of light can induce changes in cortisol rhythms remains unclear. Thus, this systematic review evaluated the effects of daytime exposure to lights of different spectral wavelength characteristics and luminance intensity on the cortisol levels in healthy individuals. A search of the PubMed, Web of Science, EMBASE, CINAHL, Medline, PsycINFO and Cochrane Library databases on 19 June 2023 identified 3418 articles, of which 12 studies (profiling 337 participants) met the inclusion and risk of bias criteria. An analysis of the literature indicated that exposure to bright lights of any colour during the late night or early morning can induce significant increases in cortisol secretion relative to time-matched dim light comparison conditions. Furthermore, exposure to bright lights with stronger short-wavelength (blue/green) components in the early morning typically induced greater increases in cortisol relative to lights with stronger long-wavelength (red) components. Thus, the circadian regulation of cortisol is sensitive to the wavelength composition of environmental lighting, in line with the more commonly studied melatonin. As such, wavelength characteristics should be optimized and reported in light intervention studies (particularly for the investigation of cortisol-associated disorders and HPA axis function), and exposure to short-wavelength light during sensitive periods should be carefully considered in constructed environments (e.g., bedroom and classroom lighting and device screens).