Researchers are working on a faster light-based therapy to prevent jet lag.
Currently, light-based jet lag prevention involves exposure to bright lights for hours at a time during the day to help the body clock adjust to a new time zone in small steps before going on a trip, the researchers explained.
But, exposure to short flashes of light — similar to camera flashes — while people are sleeping appears to be a fast and efficient way of preventing jet lag, the Stanford University researchers found.
“This could be a new way of adjusting much more quickly to time changes than other methods in use today,” study senior author Jamie Zeitzer, an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Stanford in Palo Alto, Calif., said in a university news release.
Conducting light therapy at night tricks the body clock into adjusting to a different wake/sleep routine even when a person is asleep.
Zeitzer described it as a type of “biological hacking” that fools the brain into believing the day is longer while you sleep. But, he added, the light flashes don’t seem to disrupt sleep.
Along with preventing jet lag, this technique might help treat people with other kinds of sleep cycle disruptions, such as medical residents and truck drivers with varying work/sleep schedules, or night-shift workers who want to be awake during the day, the researchers said.
The study included 39 volunteers. They were between the ages of 19 and 36.
The findings were published online Feb. 8 in the Journal of Clinical Investigation.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about jet lag.