Taking Jet Lag out of Travel with Light

Jet lag has been exhausting and upsetting travelers since fast travel across time zones first became possible. The reason for the sleepiness, the irritability and disorientation is due to the body’s internal clock being at odds with the time changes in the new location. Usually moving one time zone or two isn’t too much of a problem, but moving three or more can make functioning normally difficult for even the most seasoned traveler.

Plenty of solutions have been proposed, from taking melatonin tablets to just dealing with the symptoms by drinking teas or standing under special lamps. Now with a new solution from Stanford University, researchers may have finally solved the problem of jet lag for good. As it turns out, folks weren’t too far off the mark when it came to turning to phototherapy to help deal with the symptoms of jet lag. The only difference is that the duration and kind of light they’re being exposed to is playing a key role in stalling midday travel sleepiness.

So what’s the secret to beating the travel blues? Targeted strobe lighting while you sleep of course! The strobe lighting was around two-millisecond flashes, similar to a camera flash for about an hour. Following the treatment participants in the Stanford study reported nearly a two-hour delay in the onset of sleepiness the following night. Control participants that were placed in a room with continuous light only reported a delay of 36 minutes before feeling sleepy the following night. The end verdict? Strobe lighting is more effective for reducing or even eliminating jet-lag drowsiness!

But why does the difference matter? The short answer is that strobe lighting when used in this way, is a method of biological hacking. The flashes of light activate the cells in the back of the eyes that detect light. These cells then send a message to the area of the brain that’s in charge of the body clock. The strobe lighting is more effective at fooling the brain into thinking the day is longer than it actually is. Then the brain adjusts the inner clock and viola, jet lag gone, and full days of enjoying your vacation are finally here!

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