The treatment can help prevent fatigue and extreme tiredness caused by travelling across different time zones.
Long flights across different time zones can leave a person extremely fatigued and jittery for several days. The air traveling can also result in disturbed sleep, difficulty in concentration and stomach problems as well. Unfortunately, there is no proper treatment to deal with jet lag. There are few strategies devised that can lessen its effects but cannot eliminate it altogether.
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Now, University of Stanford researchers believe that jet lag is avoidable and can be treated without medications or adjusting sleep.
Researchers suggest that exposure to short flashes of light during sleep can help people to adjust more quickly to different time zones and can prevent jet lag.
“This could be a new way of adjusting much more quickly to time changes than other methods in use today.” Jamie Zeitzer, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and lead author of the study said.
Current light therapy treatment involves sitting in front of bright lights for hours during day time which allows a person’s body clock a transition to new time zone prior to a trip. Researchers are working on to perfect this therapy so that the people can adjust more quickly to changes in their sleep cycles without disturbing their routines.
Previous research which was also conducted by same group of researchers suggested that light therapy works best at night because the body’s circadian rhythms which control sleep cycles are more sensitive to light at night.
In the latest study, researchers have found that short flashes of light are more effective than continuous light exposure.
“That’s the novelty of this, you can basically change someone’s circadian timing while they’re still asleep and do so far more effectively than the traditional way, which involved changing your behavior in order to get light at the right time.”
When a person arrives in a new time zone, their body finds it difficult to keep pace with the changing time as its clock is still synced to the original time zone and he can experience tiredness, lack of alertness and an overall unwell feeling but eventually body adjusts on its own.
Light therapy speeds up brain adjustment to time changes. By flashing light at night, the brain’s biological clock is adjusted to an awake cycle even when asleep. It’s basically just a trick that fools the brain into thinking the day is longer when you get to sleep.
Zeitzer explains the therapy in this way. “If you are flying to New York tomorrow, tonight you use the light therapy. If you normally wake up at 8 a.m., you set the flashing light to go off at 5 a.m. When you get to New York, your biological system is already in the process of shifting to East Coast Time.
Researchers believe that this therapy has not only implications for those who travel a lot by plane but also for teenagers and students so that they can get more sleep at night.
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The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.