Sensor-Based Estimation of Dim Light Melatonin Onset Using Features of Two Time Scales

Cheng Wan, Andrew W. McHill, Elizabeth B. Klerman, Akane Sano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Circadian rhythms influence multiple essential biological activities, including sleep, performance, and mood. The dim light melatonin onset (DLMO) is the gold standard for measuring human circadian phase (i.e., timing). The collection of DLMO is expensive and time consuming since multiple saliva or blood samples are required overnight in special conditions, and the samples must then be assayed for melatonin. Recently, several computational approaches have been designed for estimating DLMO. These methods collect daily sampled data (e.g., sleep onset/offset times) or frequently sampled data (e.g., light exposure/skin temperature/physical activity collected every minute) to train learning models for estimating DLMO. One limitation of these studies is that they only leverage one time-scale data. We propose a two-step framework for estimating DLMO using data from both time scales. The first step summarizes data from before the current day, whereas the second step combines this summary with frequently sampled data of the current day. We evaluate three moving average models that input sleep timing data as the first step and use recurrent neural network models as the second step. The results using data from 207 undergraduates show that our two-step model with two time-scale features has statistically significantly lower root-mean-square errors than models that use either daily sampled data or frequently sampled data.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number20
JournalACM Transactions on Computing for Healthcare
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2021


  • Circadian rhythm
  • Dim light melatonin onset
  • Machine learning
  • Sensor data

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Information Systems
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Health Informatics
  • Health Information Management


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