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Using math to combat jet lag


June 24, 2009

Jet lag is one of the major downsides of air travel (Photo: Noel McKeegan/Gizmag)

Jet lag is one of the major downsides of air travel (Photo: Noel McKeegan/Gizmag)

Research has established that exposure to light is the key to resetting the body’s internal clock to overcome the effects of jetlag. We’ve seen a number of devices that utilize this knowledge such as the Litebook and LED light glasses. Now researchers have developed a software program that could increase the effectiveness of such devices by prescribing a regimen for timed light exposure.

The program, which seeks to re-synchronize the body with its new environment, considers inputs like background light level and the number of time zones traveled. Then, based on a mathematical model, the program gives users exact times of the day when they should apply countermeasures such as bright light to intervene and reduce the effects of jet lag. The researchers found that their mathematical computation resulted in more efficient sleep, a decrease in fatigue, and an increase in cognitive performance.

Daniel Forger, co-author of the research study says: "This work shows how interventions can cut the number of days needed to adjust to a new time zone by half." That's good news not only for travelers, but also shift-workers and those working in extreme environments such as space, undersea, or polar regions.

The next phase of this research includes the addition of interventions such as naps, caffeine and melatonin to help the process of realigning the internal body clock, while reducing decreased performance experienced during travel across time zones.

The research findings are published in the open access journal PLoS Computational Biology.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag. All articles by Darren Quick
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