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The study, published in the journal Neuroendocrinology Letters, is small and didn't track student sleep, just an early sign of change, the evening melatonin surge that typically precedes sleep by about two hours.
But while preliminary, the study is well done and should spur additional research on everyday light exposure, said Dr. Judith Owens, an associate pediatrics professor at Brown University and sleep medicine specialist.
"There's a biologically based shift in the natural sleep onset and wake-up time. I think what this study shows is that you can impact that shift with light manipulation," Owens said. "The major take-home message is to get natural light exposure early in the day."
Morning light isn't the only factor, added Figueiro. Tuesday's report is part of a larger study involving a second school in New York to examine evening light exposure -- computer and TV light plus regular indoor lighting. Too much evening light can add to the problem, she said.
The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health and U.S. Green Building Council.
Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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