Artificial light at night (ALAN) can disrupt circadian rhythms and cause sleep disturbances. Several previous epidemiological studies have reported an association between higher levels of outdoor ALAN and shorter sleep duration. However, it remains unclear how this association may differ by individual- and neighborhood-level socioeconomic status, and whether ALAN may also be associated with longer sleep duration.
We assessed the cross-sectional relationship between outdoor ALAN and self-reported sleep duration in 333,365 middle- to older-aged men and women in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study. Study participants reported baseline addresses, which were geocoded and linked with outdoor ALAN exposure measured by satellite imagery data obtained from the U.S. Defense Meteorological Satellite Program's Operational Linescan System. We used multinomial logistic regression to estimate the multinomial odds ratio (MOR) and 95% confidence intervals (CI) for the likelihood of reporting very short (<5 h), short (<7 h) and long (≥9 h) sleep relative to reporting 7-8 h of sleep across quintiles of LAN. We also conducted subgroup analyses by individual-level education and census tract-level poverty levels.
We found that higher levels of ALAN were associated with both very short and short sleep. When compared to the lowest quintile, the highest quintile of ALAN was associated with 16% and 25% increases in the likelihood of reporting short sleep in women (MOR, (95% CI), 1.16 (1.10, 1.22)) and men (1.25 (1.19, 1.31)), respectively. Moreover, we found that higher ALAN was associated with a decrease in the likelihood of reporting long sleep in men (0.79 (0.71, 0.89)). We also found that the associations between ALAN and short sleep were larger in neighborhoods with higher levels of poverty.
The burden of short sleep may be higher among residents in areas with higher levels of outdoor LAN, and this association is likely stronger in poorer neighborhoods. Future studies should investigate the potential benefits of reducing light intensity in high ALAN areas in improve sleep health.