Anyone who’s suffered from a severe bout of jet lag knows there’s seemingly no cure.
You’ve tried getting ahead of it by rearranging your sleeping schedule. You’ve tried sleeping on the plane, or not sleeping on the plane. But whenever you get to your destination on the other side of the planet, the result is the same: utter exhaustion.
Part of the reason for these failures is because of something known as your circadian clock, which functions as your body’s internal time keeper. Basically, the clock is the reason why you feel tired at night and wake up in the morning. So if you try to muck around with your sleeping schedule prior to your trip, it doesn’t work because your circadian clock knows that it’s not actually time for bed. So the key to curing jet lag has a lot to do with tricking that clock. Or at least, that’s the word from a new study out of Stanford University’s School of Medicine.
Researchers found that by subjecting someone to bright flashes of light while they slept, they could actually reset the circadian clock to whatever time they wanted. The reason for this is because light doesn’t just help us see, it also resets melatonin production inside the body (which is the hormone that predicts the onset of darkness). It’s also worth noting that these flashes don’t wake you up–in fact, the practice is referred to as “light therapy”.
You don’t actually need to see a therapist to get the benefits though. There are lamps and lights designed for this purpose already up for sale at big retailers like Costco (they go for about $100). If you want to try this out yourself, simply set the lamp to begin flashing light in your face while you sleep, but here’s the trick: it must be set so that the time difference synchronizes. In other words, if your destination’s time is three hours behind and you normally wake up at 8 a.m., you would set the light to begin flashing at 5 a.m. to reset your circadian clock so that it believes 5 a.m. is actually 8 a.m..
So there you have it, freedom from jet lag. For more information about the study, check out the video above.