Insufficient light exposure is assumed to be related to a wide array of health problems, though few studies focus on the role of whole-day light exposure in the habitual setting in the development of these health problems. The current review aims to describe the association between personal light exposure in the habitual setting and sleep-wake rhythm and mood in healthy adults from the general population.
Five databases (Embase, Medline Epub, Web of Science, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar) were searched in June 2019. The inclusion criteria included: assessment directly of light exposure on the participants for at least one full day; reporting on both individual personal light exposure and outcomes. The quality of the papers was assessed using the Quality Assessment Tool for Observational Cohort and Cross-Sectional Studies of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. The current review followed the PRISMA guidelines.
In total, 8140 papers were identified in the database search. Twenty-five papers were eventually included in this review. All included studies were cross-sectional, and individual light exposure was usually measured with a wrist-worn device. Five studies received a “good” quality rating, 16 received a “fair” rating, and the remaining 4 a “poor” quality rating. The overall quality of the included studies was considered low because of the lack of intervention studies and the fact that light exposure was measured on the wrist.
Given the low quality of the included studies, the current review can only provide a first exploration on the association between light exposure and sleep-wake rhythm and mood in healthy adults from the general population. Limited evidence is presented for a positive relationship between the amount and timing of light exposure on the one hand and rest-activity rhythm and some estimates of sleep architecture on the other. The evidence on an association between light exposure and circadian phase, sleep estimates, sleep quality, and mood is conflicting. Data from intervention studies are needed to gain insight into the causal mechanism of the relationship between light exposure and sleep-wake rhythm and mood.