• low light intensity;
  • melatonin

Five intensities of artificial light were examined for the effect on nocturnal melatonin concentrations. Maximum suppression of melatonin following 1 hr of light at midnight was 71%, 67%, 44%, 38%, and 16% with intensities of 3,000, 1,000, 500, 350, and 200 lux (lx), respectively. In contrast to some previous reports, light of 1,000 lx intensity was sufficient to suppress melatonin to near daytime levels, and intensities down to 350 lx were shown to significantly suppress nocturnal melatonin levels below prelight values. On the basis of these data, it is suggested that when examining the melatonin sensitivity of patient groups (such as bipolar affective disorders) to artificial light, an appropriate light intensity should be established in each laboratory. Light of less intensity (e.g., 200–350 lx) may be more suitable to dichotomize patient groups from control subjects.