PLoS One 2012 11;7(7):e40655. Epub 2012 Jul 11.
Centre for Behaviour and Neurosciences, University of Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
The human circadian clock regulates the daily timing of sleep, alertness and performance and is synchronized to the 24-h day by the environmental light-dark cycle. Bright light exposure has been shown to positively affect sleepiness and alertness, yet little is known about its effects on physical performance, especially in relation to chronotype. We, therefore, exposed 43 male participants (mean age 24.5 yrs ± SD 2.3 yrs) in a randomized crossover study to 160 minutes of bright (BL: ≈ 4.420 lx) and dim light (DL: ≈ 230 lx). During the last 40 minutes of these exposures, participants performed a bicycle ergometer test. Time-of-day of the exercise sessions did not differ between the BL and DL condition. Chronotype (MSF(sc), mid-sleep time on free days corrected for oversleep due to sleep debt on workdays) was assessed by the Munich ChronoType Questionnaire (MCTQ). Total work was significantly higher in BL (median 548.4 kJ, min 411.82 kJ, max 875.20 kJ) than in DL (median 521.5 kJ, min 384.33 kJ, max 861.23 kJ) (p = 0.004) going along with increased exhaustion levels in BL (blood lactate (+12.7%, p = 0.009), heart rate (+1.8%, p = 0.031), and Borg scale ratings (+2.6%, p = 0.005)) in all participants. The differences between total work levels in BL and DL were significantly higher (p = 0.004) if participants were tested at a respectively later time point after their individual mid-sleep (chronotype). These novel results demonstrate, that timed BL exposure enhances physical performance with concomitant increase in individual strain, and is related not only to local (external) time, but also to an individual's internal time.