Artificial light, despite its widespread and valuable use, has been associated with deterioration of health and well-being, including altered circadian timing and sleep disturbances, particularly in nocturnal exposure. Recent findings from our lab reveal significant sleep and sleep electroencephalogram (EEG) changes owing to three months exposure to dim-light-at-night (DLAN). Aiming to further explore the detrimental effects of DLAN exposure, in the present study, we continuously recorded sleep EEG and the electromyogram for baseline 24-h and following 6-h sleep deprivation in a varied DLAN duration scheme. C57BL/6J mice were exposed to a 12:12 h light:DLAN cycle (75lux:5lux) vs. a 12:12 h light:dark cycle (75lux:0lux) for one day, one week, and one month. Our results show that sleep was already affected by a mere day of DLAN exposure with additional complications emerging with increasing DLAN exposure duration, such as the gradual delay of the daily 24-h vigilance state rhythms. We conducted detrended fluctuation analysis (DFA) on the locomotor activity data following 1-month and 3-month DLAN exposure, and a significantly less healthy rest-activity pattern, based on the decreased alpha values, was found in both conditions compared to the control light-dark. Taking into account the behavioral, sleep and the sleep EEG parameters, our data suggest that DLAN exposure, even in the shortest duration, induces deleterious effects; nevertheless, potential compensatory mechanisms render the organism partly adjustable and able to cope. We think that, for this reason, our data do not always depict linear divergence among groups, as compared with control conditions. Chronic DLAN exposure impacts the sleep regulatory system, but also brain integrity, diminishing its adaptability and reactivity, especially apparent in the sleep EEG alterations and particular low alpha values following DFA.
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