Ask Our Doctors: After Dark
Sleep specialist Dr. Michael J. Breus shares the best treatments for jetlag and sleep disorders.
"The body takes approximately one day per time zone crossed to recover from jet lag," Dr. Breus says. "It's different depending on the direction of travel: east is least, west is best. If you're traveling west, it'll only take about a half a day [to recover], whereas if you're traveling east, it'll take almost a full day."
If you're constantly jetting between time zones, Dr. Breus suggests light therapy to address the disruption in the body's Circadian rhythms. NASA astronauts found they could shift their body clocks up to six hours in one day with timed light exposure. Products such as the Litebook stimulate the pineal gland in the brain, the locus of the biological clock. The pineal gland instructs the body when to wake up and when to go to sleep, and is responsible for the production of melatonin, a substance instrumental for sleep.
"Melatonin is the vampire hormone, it's only produced at night," Dr. Breus explains.
Sleepy Time Help
For people who work at night, wearing specially engineered light-blocking sunglasses during daylight commutes home will filter out the particular wavelength of light that stimulates the pineal gland.
The NightWave is another device that acts as a sleep aid.
"Place the NightWave on the bedside table," Dr. Breus instructs. "The light flashes on the ceiling at a particular rhythm, and you're supposed to time your breathing to the rhythm. As you're falling asleep, your body starts to really relax, and your breathing gets into a different rhythm. That's the same rhythm being produced by this light, and you slowly relax more and more and you fall asleep."