Want to fight jet lag? Adjust the lights, psychologist says
Recovering from jet lag can result in lost productivity for business travellers and lost leisure time for vacationers, but some airlines are tackling the issue with adjustments to cabin lighting.
Sleep specialist and psychology professor Colleen Carney told Canada AM that airlines are starting to pay attention to the science of jet lag and light, and making changes in their airplane cabins as a result.
“Jet lag is really about a mismatch between the clock that’s in your body and the clock that you’re adjusting to local time,” she said. “(And) the best way to deal with your body clock is through light.”
Carney said that when travellers are supposed to be sleeping they generally require red spectrum light to stimulate melatonin – a natural chemical compound in our body that helps regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Good sleep also requires the absence of blue spectrum lights – the type of lights that are typically present during the day, she said.
“So manipulating that in a cabin can actually help with jet lag,” she said.
Carney said that, while the effects of jet lag vary from person to person, most travellers will take about one day to recover for each time zone they’ve crossed.
She added that there are several other steps travellers can do take to combat jet lag including refraining from drinking alcohol or coffee, staying hydrated, moving around during the flight, and eating meals according to the schedule at their destination.
“We have little clocks in our bellies as well as in our brains. It actually helps to set the clock,” she said.