We've all experienced that feeling of disconnect and disorientation that often accompanies long-haul travel. Jet lag, or “jetlag,” can ruin the first few days of a trip or make returning to the daily routine after an exotic getaway particularly taxing. Fortunately, light therapy can offer an effective solution to reset our internal clock and alleviate the effects of jet lag. Let's see how.
Jetlag occurs when our internal body clock, or circadian rhythm, is thrown out of phase by a rapid change in time zones. Our body follows a 24-hour cycle that regulates a multitude of functions, including sleep, hunger, body temperature and hormone production. When we travel across multiple time zones, our circadian rhythm becomes out of sync with local time, leading to symptoms such as fatigue, insomnia, mental confusion, and gastrointestinal distress.
Light therapy to counter jetlag
Light therapy, which involves exposure to intense, full-spectrum light simulating natural sunlight, has been used to treat a variety of circadian rhythm-related disorders, including jet lag. Exposure to light influences our biological clock by influencing the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep-wake cycle.
By strategically exposing our bodies to light at specific times of the day, we can "reset" our internal clock to match local time. In this way, light therapy can help relieve the symptoms of jetlag and speed up our adaptation to the new time zone.
How to use light therapy to counter jetlag
The key to using light therapy effectively to counter jetlag is timing. In general, if you're traveling east (which advances your clock), you should aim to expose yourself to light early in the morning, to advance your circadian rhythm. If you're traveling west (which sets your clock back), you should look to get exposure to light in the late afternoon and evening, to delay your circadian rhythm.
Light therapy can be performed using a specially designed circadian light therapy lamp, which provides intense, full-spectrum light without the harmful ultraviolet rays at the right intensity and at the right time of day.
While jetlag is an inevitable reality of modern travel, light therapy in general and more specifically circadian light therapy, offers a promising method to mitigate its effects and facilitate our adaptation to a new time zone. Have a good trip !