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How to use light therapy for Jet Lag

Overview

Jet lag is a circadian rhythm sleep disorder associated with jet travel across time zones, according to research published in the journal Travel Medicine and Infectious Disease. After crossing time zones, the brain becomes misaligned too rapidly to immediately adjust to the new cycle of light and darkness. Melatonin is a nocturnal hormone produced in the pineal gland in the brain that regulates how the body adjusts to light and darkness. The more time zones traveled across, the more severe the symptoms of insomnia and excessive daytime sleepiness. Bright light therapy can accelerate circadian realignment and alleviate the effects from jet lag.

Step 1

Readjust your timepiece to the local time of your destination.

Step 2

Position the light therapy box 18 inches from your eyes and adjust tilt to reduce glare; a light therapy box emits bright light that is similar to natural outdoor light.

Step 3

Direct the light beam to your eyes for 15 to 30 minutes every 24 hours after you arrive at your destination; begin in the early morning if you traveled east or in the evening if you traveled west. Continue light therapy for one day for every time zone crossed.

Step 4

Keep your eyes open the entire time but do not stare directly at the light source.

Step 5

Talk, eat, work or conduct another activity during the light therapy.

Step 6

Recharge the battery of the light therapy box after each use according to the directions of manufacturer.

Step 7

Wear light blocking glasses in the late afternoon after you arrive at your destination if you traveled east or in the morning if you traveled west. Continue for one day for every time zone crossed.

Tips and Warnings

  • People traveling east can take longer to adjust than when traveling west because during a shorter day, a bigger adjustment is needed to shift the clock in the brain for melatonin production and a circadian rhythm that is in sync with the new destination. When traveling east, use bright light therapy in the morning of the destination. When traveling west, use bright light therapy in the evening of the destination. Preflight therapy of intermittent or continuous light greater than 3000 lux for 3.5 hours in each of the mornings beginning three days prior to traveling east could advance the adjustment to the new time zone, according to scientists in a study published in the Journal of Biological Rhythms. When properly timed, melatonin and light therapy can be effective in alleviating jet lag, according to research published in CNS Drugs.
  • According to research published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, the side effects from light therapy include nausea, jumpiness, hyperactivity, eye strain and headaches. Consult with your physician before undergoing light therapy if you have any type of eye disease, had eye surgery, are taking antibiotics or other medication that could make you sensitive to light, or are taking a drug for treatment of anxiety or mood disorders, such as depression or bipolar disorder.
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