Most travelers are aware that jet lag can affect you for days and make adjusting to your new location difficult. A new study performed by scientists at Stanford University suggests that there may be a way to treat jet lag without the need for medication. The study was published in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.
Jet lag is the result of waking and sleeping patterns that are not synchronized to your circadian rhythms. The circadian system is responsible for your sleep and wake phases and relies on light exposure to control sleep timing and the release of hormones that help you sleep and awaken.
According to the study, exposing individuals to short bursts of light during sleep prior to the trip can help with an adjustment to time zone changes. This is because flashing light may help to reset the circadian system by “tricking” the brain.
Current light therapy involves sitting in front of bright lights for hours during the day, but this new method can be done during sleep without interrupting routine. That’s because the light therapy method works even through closed eyelids, due to what neurobiologist Jamie Zeitzer refers to as exploiting the eye’s biology. In the study, short flashes of light were even found to produce more of a circadian timing change than continuous light.
More testing on this method is needed, but it could benefit night shift workers in addition to travelers.