Battling Jet Lag with Light Therapy
Traveling by airplane to another time zone can make you feel a wide range of symptoms, such as fatigue, insomnia, anxiety and confusion. These jet lag symptoms can mar the enjoyment of a vacation, but if you’re someone who depends on their ability to perform at their best when they travel, such as a businessperson, an athlete or musician, these symptoms can put the results of an important business deal or performance in jeopardy.For those who travel frequently and experience chronic jet lag, serious health concerns may also become an issue as the risks rise for diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
The Root Cause
The root cause of jet lag is a body clock that is out of synch with your normal daily schedule. Our body clock refers to the internal systems that regulate our physical and mental functions over the course of a day, known as our circadian rhythms. Flying to other time zones easily throws the body clock out of order. Bodies that are used to falling asleep and waking up at certain times naturally resist adjusting to a new time zone. This delay in adaptation, known as jet lag, causes a wide range of symptoms including:
- Coordination problems
- Memory loss
- Increased susceptibility to illness
Poor Performance: The Real Cost of Travel
All of these symptoms can have a negative effect on our ability to perform. Anyone who depends on their ability to perform at their top level is at a disadvantage when they travel. The physiological and emotional effects of jet lag, such as fatigue and irritability, aren’t conducive to peak performance. Cognitive impairments, such as poor concentration and short-term memory loss, can be a problem for anyone traveling for business, while impairments to the ability to mobilize energy, arousal levels and reaction times are particularly troublesome for those who rely on their physical abilities.
Light Therapy: Your Competitive Advantage
Adjusting to new time zones as rapidly as possible is crucial for travelers who want to perform at their best. Light therapy involving exposure to a specifically designed source of artificial light is a proven strategy for resetting of the body clock. Light therapy works because light is what establishes our body clock. Specialized cells in the retina at the back of our eyes detect the presence of light or darkness and carry this information to the brain, signaling the release of various hormones. At night, when no light is detected, the eye sends the signal to the pineal gland in the brain to begin releasing melatonin, which causes us to feel sleepy. In the morning, when light hits our eyes, our brain tells our body to stop making melatonin and instead to start producing serotonin, a hormone that helps us wake up.
The Serious Consequences of Chronic Jet Lag
When the body clock is in order we feel better and perform best. When it’s temporarily thrown out of whack we may suffer from any of the jet lag symptoms until we reset our body clock. But for people who travel frequently and never manage to reset their body clocks, serious health concerns can arise. This is because hormones regulated by light and darkness affect more than just our sleep/wake cycle. For example, research has shown that melatonin strengthens our immune systems, lowers the risk of cancer and protects against brain deterioration. In fact, people with low melatonin secretion have a higher incidence of many illnesses, including cancer, diabetes and heart disease. Similarly, serotonin does more than just affect our energy and alertness. Serotonin is a mood enhancer, which is why it is commonly referred to as the happiness hormone. Low levels of serotonin are associated with anger, depression and anxiety. And because low levels make it difficult to sleep soundly, disrupting melatonin production, a vicious cycle ensues in which normal hormonal rhythms remain derailed and performance and health continue to suffer.
Resetting the Body Clock
Exposure to light as well as darkness at the right times will help accelerate the alignment of circadian rhythms to a new time zone. For example, for people traveling east, getting light upon waking will help the body adjust to the earlier morning. Similarly, keeping the bedroom dark at night will encourage the production of melatonin, inducing sleep at the desired time. Light therapy can be employed before travel to pre-adjust the body to the destination’s time zone.
YumaLite™ is a head-mounted light therapy visor designed with the traveler in mind. It uses clinically proven technology that is effective and safe. It has been ergonomically designed by award-winning designers as a lightweight cordless visor that rests comfortably on your head so you can easily wear it while doing any number of things, from having breakfast and watching TV to getting dressed or exercising. YumaLite™ is also compact and portable, which makes it easy to travel with.
Light Therapy Research
Light therapy has been extensively studied and researched over the past three decades. It is commonly recommended by medical practitioners to address the symptoms of light deficiency and circadian rhythm sleep disorders that stem from Winter Blues, shift work and jet lag.