New light device alters brain and body’s clock

IT IS one of the negative side-effects of long-haul travel, but suffering from jet lag could soon become a distant memory for weary travellers. Australian sleep researchers have developed a set of hi-tech “sunglasses”, described as the world’s first “time control” spectacles, which can imitate sunlight patterns.

The team, from Flinders University in Adelaide, says the glasses emit a soft green glow that helps a traveller adapt to changing sleep patterns and time zones in “small steps”.

It targets a part of the brain that regulates the human body-clock, by sending signals to the rest of the body that help it slowly realise it is in a different area of the world.

It has been suggested the device, dubbed the “Re-Timer”, is the only wearable body clock adjustment system commercially available.

Scientists say the device, officially launched in South Australia yesterday, can help ward off the negative effects of long-haul travel and bring new relief to insomnia sufferers, shift workers and even teenagers.

“The light from Re-Timer stimulates the part of the brain responsible for regulating the 24-hour body clock,” its chief inventor, Prof Leon Lack, said.

“Using a light device allows you to transition your body clock to a new time zone in small steps.

“This eliminates the sudden change people experience after flying and reduces the symptoms of jet lag.”

Prof Lack, from the university’s school of psychology, said the device’s light exposure helps change the behaviour of a gland at the base of the brain, which controls the body clock.

Extensive research has shown that green light is one of the most effective wavelengths for influencing the body clock.

The battery-powered device, which retails for £162 (R2 305) in Britain, then sends signals that trigger the production of hormones and daily cycles known as circadian rhythms.

“Body clocks or circadian rhythms influence the timing of all our sleeping and waking patterns, alertness, performance levels and metabolism,” he said.

“Photoreceptors in our eyes detect sunlight, signal our brain to be awake and alert, and set our rhythms accordingly. These rhythms vary regularly over a 24-hour cycle. However, this process is often impaired by staying indoors, travelling to other time zones, working irregular hours, or a lack of sunlight during winter months.”

For those people who want to sleep peacefully, but wake earlier, they should wear it for 50 minutes in the morning for three days.

Those who want a lie-in should wear it for the same time before bed to delay the body clock.

The device, which is powered by an in-built rechargeable battery, can also be worn as sunglasses during daily tasks such as reading or using a computer.

“The glasses have been designed to be user-friendly and comfortable to wear so people can go about their normal activities wearing them at work or at home,” he said, adding they had been designed based on 25 years of university research.

It is estimated that up to 94% of long-haul travellers suffer from jet lag because the body becomes confused when travelling through different time zones.

It uses the outside world as indicators as to whether it should be awake or asleep, including factors such as light, silence or noise.

Airlines are said to be in discussions to buy the device. – The Daily Telegraph

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