The Role of Daylight for Humans. Gaps in Current Knowledge

​Münch M, Wirz-Justice A, Brown SA, Kantermann T, Martiny K, Stefani O, Vetter C, Wright KP Jr, Wulff K, Skene DJ. The Role of Daylight for Humans: Gaps in Current Knowledge. Clocks Sleep. 2020 Feb 28;2(1):61-85. doi: 10.3390/clockssleep2010008. PMID: 33561052.


Daylight stems solely from direct, scattered and reflected sunlight, and undergoes dynamic changes in irradiance and spectral power composition due to latitude, time of day, time of year and the nature of the physical environment (reflections, buildings and vegetation). Humans and their ancestors evolved under these natural day/night cycles over millions of years. Electric light, a relatively recent invention, interacts and competes with the natural light-dark cycle to impact human biology. What are the consequences of living in industrialised urban areas with much less daylight and more use of electric light, throughout the day (and at night), on general health and quality of life? In this workshop report, we have classified key gaps of knowledge in daylight research into three main groups: (I) uncertainty as to daylight quantity and quality needed for "optimal" physiological and psychological functioning, (II) lack of consensus on practical measurement and assessment methods and tools for monitoring real (day) light exposure across multiple time scales, and (III) insufficient integration and exchange of daylight knowledge bases from different disciplines. Crucial short and long-term objectives to fill these gaps are proposed.

Keywords: alertness; circadian rhythms; entrainment; health; melatonin; mood; natural light; sleep; spectrum; twilight.

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