A trip to New Zealand, a couple of SAD lamps, the perfect opportunity to test out the light therapy idea and how it may or may not help with Jet lag.
With a trip to New Zealand and a World Championships race to do within 24 hours of arrival, I decided to look into light therapy and how it might help me to combat jet lag.
I managed to contact a scientist, to get some background and advice. His name is Greg Atkinson, and he is a senior lecturer in the school for health, Durham University. He said he has done some research into the effects of light exposure on jet lag symptoms (a flight over only 5 time zones) and is currently researching early morning dawn simulation light exposure. I am reading his book, which is also a very interesting read.
Think of the world we live in. It is intrinsically cyclical. The most obvious is day and night, but even so, we have a body clock. Day is warmer, night colder, in the day we eat, in the night we sleep, the list would go on and on. The way our bodies operate also reflects this. Our core temperature is cooler at night, in fact, that is what we rely on to help us sleep. Our digestion system slows down at night: you do not wake at night as many times as you visit the bathroom during the day, for example.
Scientists have found that when time related cues are removed, we have a natural body clock of about 25 hours. This might explain why some of us are ‘larks’ and some ‘owls’. are you a morning or a night person?
Waterhouse et al say you can.
If you want to become a morning person, you might make evenings dim and relaxing. If you wanted to become an evening person you might become mentally and physically active during the evening.
So, if you can adjust the body clock, then you should be able to adjust and not suffer jet lag? Here is where our test came in.
The thing that I did notice, which due to work / life constrictions was I was not able to address was bowel movement and digestion system. It took that around a week to get back into sync with the correct day and night times at both ends of the flight. What would I do differently next time? Perhaps consider moving the meal times as well as the get up / sleep times and see if that helps.
Can light therapy help combat jet lag? Hell yes!! I raced less than 24 hours after arriving, I am pretty sure I would have been asleep at 2pm if I had not prepared for the jet lag! I did not wake up constantly and regularly like Mark did, either in New Zealand or in the UK. In fact, I began to poke fun at him and suggested he too try light therapy, as he became frustrated that he could not sleep through the night.
I felt that the effects of jet lag, for me, were minimal. I also used light therapy when I travelled to China last year, and that too was incredibly successful.
I will be continuing to use light therapy throughout the winter, and am looking forward to reading the rest of Greg Atkinson’s book.