Objective We aimed to examine the effects of night work on salivary melatonin concentrations during and subsequent to night work and the mediating role of light.
Methods We included 254 day workers and 87 night workers that were followed during 322 work days and 301 days off work. Each day was defined as the 24 hour period starting from the beginning of a night shift or awakening in mornings with daytime work and days off. Light levels were recorded and synchronised with diary information on start and end of sleep and work. On average, participants provided four saliva samples per day, and these were analysed for melatonin concentration. Differences between day and night workers on work days and days off were assessed with multilevel regression models with melatonin concentrations as outcome. All models were stratified or adjusted by time of the day. For light exposure, we estimated the total, direct, and indirect effects of night work on melatonin concentrations obtaining 95% confidence intervals trough bootstrapping.
Results On work days, night workers showed 16.5% (95% CI 0.2; 30.5) lower salivary melatonin concentration compared with day workers. Light exposure seemed to mediate about 40% of the melatonin suppression seen during night, but no mediating effect of light was seen during day time. On days off, we observed no difference in melatonin concentration between day and night workers.
Conclusion These findings are in accordance with a transient and partly light mediated effect of night work on melatonin concentration.
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