Artificial light at night disrupts sleep in female great tits (**Parus major**) during the nestling period, and is followed by a sleep rebound
Artificial light at night has been linked to a wide variety of physiological and behavioural consequences in humans and animals. Given that little is known about the impact of light pollution on sleep in wild animals, we tested how experimentally elevated light levels affected sleep behaviour of female songbirds rearing 10 day old chicks. Using a within-subject design, individual sleep behaviour was observed over three consecutive nights in great tits (Parus major), with females sleeping in a natural dark situation on the first and third night, whereas on the second night they were exposed to a light-emitting diode (1.6 lux). Artificial light in the nest box dramatically and significantly affected sleep behaviour, causing females to fall asleep later (95 min; while entry time was unaffected), wake up earlier (74 min) and sleep less (56%). Females spent a greater proportion of the night awake and the frequency of their sleep bouts decreased, while the length of their sleep bouts remained equal. Artificial light also increased begging of chicks at night, which may have contributed to the sleep disruption in females or vice versa. The night following the light treatment, females slept 25% more compared to the first night, which was mainly achieved by increasing the frequency of sleep bouts. Although there was a consistent pattern in how artificial light affected sleep, there was also large among-individual variation in how strongly females were affected. When comparing current results with a similar experiment during winter, our results highlight differences in effects between seasons and underscore the importance of studying light pollution during different seasons. Our study shows that light pollution may have a significant impact on sleep behaviour in free-living animals during the reproductive season, which may provide a potential mechanism by which artificial light affects fitness.
Source (journal)
Environmental pollution. - London
London : 2016
215(2016), p. 125-134
Full text (Publisher's DOI)
Full text (open access)
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Research group
Short and long term effects of light pollution on the great tit (Parus major) and the effectiveness of mitigating strategies.
Effects of light pollution on behavioural, life-history and physiological traits in a songbird: an integrative approach.
Publication type
Publications with a UAntwerp address
External links
Web of Science
Creation 14.05.2016
Last edited 01.08.2017
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