What is jet lag?
Jet lag, or timezone syndrome, is an extremely unpleasant consequence of traveling to a different time zone. You feel dizzy, exhausted, also your bowels may complain a little bit.
Why is that? After all, you just sat on a plane, you weren’t doing anything exhaustive. But your body thinks otherwise. Your body has its own natural rhythm (called circadian rhythm), which it derives from the sunrise and sunset times. When you move to a different timezone, you are shifting those times. On arrival to your destination, your time could be shifted by up to 12 hours.
So the light and darkness cycle of your new surroundings is drastically forcing your body to change it’s groove. It’s like if someone pushed you to start writing only with your other hand. You could live with that. You could write something. But it’s going to be very exhausting and to be eventually efficient, you will need time.
For every timezone, for every hour you are shifting, you’re going to need one day to recover, according to NASA Flight Medicine Team.
How to fight it?
Hundreds of millions air passengers are flying every year and many of them are affected by jet lag. Diverse advice can be found online and offline regarding jet lag prevention and remedies, many of which have to be taken with a grain of salt. Sleeping on a plane, taking sleep pills, melatonin, drinking coffee…these you need to plan very carefully. Often, you will not know how large an effect they’ll have.
There are also less drastical ways to adjust to jet lag. According to the Mayo Clinic, light exposure at the right times ahead of the trip can help.
Light therapy is a conventional way of preparing yourself for a timezone shift. You are going to sleep at times normal in your timezone, ideally in complete darkness. During your sleep, a light will turn on, simulating the sun in the target timezone. The idea is that your melatonin cycle will adjust to the target timezone gradually. No rapid change here.
A Stanford University School of Medicine research team, led by Raymond Najjar, PhD, has found a new way of fighting jet lag. They replaced conventional continuous light therapy with just brief flashes of light during the night. This was far more effective.
“The study found that a sequence of 2-millisecond flashes of light, similar to a camera flash, 10 seconds apart elicited a nearly two-hour delay in the onset of sleepiness, the most efficient and fastest method of adjusting the internal clock. For participants exposed to continuous light, the delay was only 36 minutes.” [link]
This means that every day of continuous light therapy will shift your internal clock for about half an hour. With the new intermittent light therapy, your circadian rhythm will adjust for more than an hour.
Jet lag prevention in Sleep as Android
You can prevent jet lag using intermittent light therapy with Sleep as Android. Just enable “Jet lag prevention” prior to traveling. Each hour of timezone difference requires a day of adjustment. Select the target timezone and in the evening, start sleep tracking and point the LED light at the ceiling. You can also use SleepMask or Philips HUE.
If your target destination is west from your current location, jet lag prevention will flash starting from your bedtime. If you are heading east, it will start during the night and flash until the morning. The duration of the flashing depends on time difference between current and target timezone.
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