If you’re a frequent traveller, you’ll know that jetlag is a real concern. When you’re crossing time zones, this knocks out the sync between your internal body clock and the day/night pattern.
Apart from the obvious side effects of being sleepy in the middle of the day or wide awake in the wee small hours, jetlag symptoms include: clumsiness, feeling lightheaded or dizzy, fatigue and a lack of focus. That’s no good if you have to attend an important meeting, give a presentation or even be sociable with colleagues, family or friends.
How light therapy may help beat jetlag
While our bodies adjust slowly on their own – in about 3-7 days – there are times when this is inconvenient. Light therapy is currently the only way to ‘reset’ your natural circadian rhythms quickly as it can help your body adjust to new day/night times.
Adjust your body clock with re-timer glasses
Re-timer glasses are the world’s first wearable green-light device, developed in Australia by clinical psychologist Professor Lean Lack and his colleagues at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia.
They will set your back $395, but these lightweight glasses produce a 100% UV-free green light which helps to reset your body clock and bring it in line with the local day/night cycle as soon as possible.
Wearing the glasses for 30-50 minutes a day for four days before you leave on a long-haul flight will gradually shift your sleeping pattern naturally, so you can arrive feeling on the ball for that important business meeting.
Travellers use one of the jetlag calculators available on the internet which will customise a schedule for wearing the glasses, depending on whether they are flying East or West. For more information, visit www.nzrsi.co.nz.
More about chronotherapy
Dr Andrew Veale, who established the first Sleep Laboratory in New Zealand and is now a consultant at the New Zealand Sleep & Respiratory Institute (NZRSI), shares some fascinating facts about Chronotherapy – the science of using light to reset your inner clock:
- The word ‘circadian’ is derived from the Latin – ‘circa’ meaning around or about, and ‘dies’ meaning day. Hence, about a day or 24 hours.
- Our circadian clock regulates biological processes including core body temperature and levels of the ‘sleep’ hormone melatonin – two important physiological factors in our natural sleep cycle.
- Light is the strongest synchroniser of the circadian system.
- Melatonin is only secreted at night, and can be supressed by bright light of at least 1500 lux.
- Bright light given in early morning will ‘phase-advance’ a circadian rhythm (i.e. you will feel sleepier earlier in the evening)
- Bright light given in the evening before going to bed will ‘phase-delay’ a circadian rhythm (i.e. you will naturally fall asleep later than normal)
- Computers and television sets generate blue light which can delay the onset of melatonin release and delay sleep onset contributing to phase delay
- Lack of light can, in certain circumstances, result in depression or low mood, particularly in the winter. (Seasonal Affective Disorder – SAD)
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