Light is a potent circadian entraining agent. For many people, daily light exposure is fundamentally dysregulated with reduced light during the day and increased light into the late evening. This lighting schedule promotes chronic disruption to circadian physiology resulting in a myriad of impairments. Developmental changes in sleep-wake physiology suggest that such light exposure patterns may be particularly disruptive for adolescents and further compounded by lifestyle factors such as early school start times. This narrative review describes evidence that reduced light exposure during the school day delays the circadian clock, and longer exposure durations to light-emitting electronic devices in the evening suppress melatonin. While home lighting in the evening can suppress melatonin secretion and delay circadian phase, the patterning of light exposure across the day and evening can have moderating effects. Photic countermeasures may be flexibly and scalably implemented to support sleep-wake health; including manipulations of light intensity, spectra, duration and delivery modality across multiple contexts. An integrative approach addressing physiology, attitudes, and behaviors will support optimization of light-driven sleep-wake outcomes in adolescents.
- Circadian rhythm