BEACON TRANSCRIPT – Jet lag or jet lag disorder can become quite a nightmare for those travelling over long distances and across multiple time zone. But it would seem that you won’t have to worry too much about the effects of this disorder because a cure is on the way. A team of scientists from Stanford has discovered that jet lag can be cured with flashes of light.
First of all, let’s have a little chat about jet lag. As defined by Mayo, jet lag, often called jet lag disorder, is a temporary sleep-related disorder, why affects people travelling over multiple time zones. Moreover, the disorder is caused by our internal clock’s inability to sync with the new time zone, because it still operates in the original time zone.
Usually, the effects of jet lag wear off after 3 days, but it’s still not pleasant to start your vacation abroad feeling tired and having gastrointestinal issues. The symptoms associated with this disorder are daytime fatigue, a feeling of uneasiness, gastrointestinal problems and the overall inability to stay alert.
But a team of scientists from Stanford University led by Jamie Zeitzer, a neurobiologist, might have figured out a clever way to trick our brain into thinking that we are in the same time zone. Zeitzer declared that the trick into doing this thing in to exploit the biology of the eye.
The dreaded jet lag often occurs when our sleep patterns are out of sync with our circadian system, which is basically our body’s internal clock. This intricate mechanism regulates our sleeping patterns and differentiates night/day cycles. Moreover, the circadian system also regulates the mechanisms which secrete hormones. All in all, we owe so much to this neat device which gets us going.
Now, the associate professor of psychiatry and his team of medical researchers have devised a method to trick our brain into thinking that we are in fact back home. The traditional method used to minimize the effects of jet lag was light therapy. Basically, before embarking on your trip abroad, you would have to sleep with near a light source.
Scientists have discovered that a light source near our eyes can help the body adjust faster to another time zone. While this method proved to be efficient, Zeitzer, along Raymond Najjar, a scientist working for the Singapore Eye Research Institute, have managed to find a more effective way to minimize the effects of jet lag.
According to the paper, they published, it is more efficient to used short flashes of light at night, than a continuous source of light.
In order to test out their assumption, the team enlisted the help of 39 volunteers with ages between 19 and 36 years old. All the volunteers were asked to sleep in the lab for a period of 2 weeks. The volunteers would go to bed at a precise hour and would wake up at the same hour each day.
During this 2-week trial, the scientists experimented with both light-based therapies. The study did indeed concluded that jet lag can be cured with flashes of light, which are more effective than a continuous source of light.
The scientists have discovered that patients subjected to a continuous light source experienced a 36-minute change in circadian timing while those exposed to an intermittent source of light experienced a 2-hour change for every 10 seconds spent looking at a 2 millisecond light.