Effect of indoor light supplementation on rest/activity rhythms and sleep in older adults

This PhD studentship aims to investigate the effect of indoor light exposure on daily timing of activity and sleep quality in three distinctly different cities in the EU.

Start date

1 April 2022


36 months, with an additional 6 months for thesis writing

Application deadline

Funding source

University of Surrey Doctoral College together with the ENLIGHTENme project (EU Horizon 2020 grant agreement No 945238)

Funding information

This is a fully funded PhD opportunity. The successful candidate will receive a stipend for 3.5 years (current rate £15,609 pa). Full UK tuition fees and consumables are covered, and the studentship also includes a £3,000 Research training support budget. International applicants are welcome to apply and are eligible for the full studentship, but only UK tuition fees are covered, and international students will have to fund the difference between UK and overseas tuition fees.


Urbanization is decreasing natural light exposure that is disruptive to health and wellbeing which can increase the risk of metabolic disturbances, cancers and mood. This problem is exacerbated in older adults in our ageing society, however, some studies indicate that improving indoor light conditions can alleviate some of these health issues.

You will be part of our Chronobiology research team at the University of Surrey. We are partners in a large EU H2020-funded research consortium that is investigating the social and health aspects of urban lighting, and you will be investigating the benefits of enhanced indoor light exposure on daily timing of activity and sleep in older adults.

In three cities (Bologna (IT), Amsterdam (NL), Tartu (ES)), we will expose 1,500 older adults to indoor, blue-enriched light for a full year and compare this to the control groups. Using wrist-worn activity monitors and wearable light sensors, we will collect personalised recording of activity, sleep and light exposure profiles during baseline and after light exposure, as well as responses to sleep and mood questionnaires.

You will design and perform circadian and sleep analysis of the rest/activity recordings, and link this to personal light exposure. The activity data analysis includes both assessment of daily timing of sleep-wake, and within-day and between-day dynamics in activity. To complement this, you will extract subjective measures of sleep quality, chronotype and mood from participant questionnaires.

You will have many training opportunities and attend UK and international conferences to expand your network. You will interact with the 22 other partners of the EU consortium that will look at physiological, genetic and socio-economic measures in the same study, with a view of providing an evidence base for the beneficial effects of light supplementation on older adults which will inform policy development, and improved ‘good practice’ guidelines on lighting in urban environments.

Related links

Enlighten me project

Relevant reading

  1. R. G. Stevens, Y. Zhu, Electric light, particularly at night, disrupts human circadian rhythmicity: is that a problem? Philos. Trans. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 370, 20140120 (2015).
  2. K. Davis, L. C. Roden, V. D. Leaner, P. J. van der Watt, The tumour suppressing role of the circadian clock. IUBMB Life 71, 771–780 (2019).
  3. S. Masri, P. Sassone-Corsi, The emerging link between cancer, metabolism, and circadian rhythms. Nat. Med. 24, 1795–1803 (2018).
  4. J. Zhao, G. R. Warman, J. F. Cheeseman, The functional changes of the circadian system organization in aging. Ageing Res. Rev. 52, 64–71 (2019).
  5. S. Hood, S. Amir, The aging clock: circadian rhythms and later life. J. Clin. Invest. 127, 437–446 (2017).
  6. S. Hopkins, et al., Blue-Enriched Lighting for Older People Living in Care Homes: Effect on Activity, Actigraphic Sleep, Mood and Alertness. Curr. Alzheimer Res. 14 (2017).

Eligibility criteria

Applicants are expected to hold a good honours degree (upper second) or Masters in an appropriate discipline.

Funding is for UK students. International applicants are welcome to apply and are eligible for the full studentship, but will have to fund the difference between UK and overseas tuition fees.

English Language requirements 

IELTS Academic: 6.5 or above (or equivalent) with 6 in each individual category if English is not your first language.

How to apply

Applications should be submitted via the Biosciences and Medicine PhD programme page on the "Apply" tab. Please clearly state the studentship title and supervisor on your application.

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Application deadline

Contact details

Daan van der Veen
11 AY 02
Telephone: +44 (0)1483 686437
E-mail: D.VanderVeen@surrey.ac.uk


Take a look at our chronobiology section research based within the School of Biosciences and Medicine.


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