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Transcranial Bright Light and Symptoms of Jet Lag: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial

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BACKGROUND: Rapid travel over multiple time zones usually results in transient de-synchronization between environmental time and the biological clock of the individual. Common symptoms are increased daytime sleepiness, reduced sleep duration and quality, and performance impairments. Exposure to ocular bright light is known to alleviate jet lag symptoms and facilitate adaptation to a new time zone. Recently, transcranial bright light (TBL) via the ear canals has been shown to have antidepressant, anxiolytic, and psychomotor performance-enhancing effects. In this case we studied whether intermittent TBL exposure can alleviate jet lag symptoms in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study.

METHODS: Intermittent light exposures (4 × 12 min; day 0: 08:00, 10:00, 12:00, 14:00; days 1-6: 10:00, 12:00, 14:00, 16:00) were administered during the 7-d post-travel period after an eastward transatlantic flight. The symptoms of jet lag were measured by the Visual Analog Scale (VAS), the Karolinska Sleepiness Scale (KSS), and the Profile of Mood States (POMS).

RESULTS: We found a significant reduction of overall jet lag symptoms (VAS), subjective sleepiness (KSS), and the fatigue, inertia, and forgetfulness subscales of the POMS when comparing the active TBL treatment group (N = 30) to the placebo group (N = 25). For example, the normalized values of VAS in the TBL, but not the placebo, group returned to pre-travel levels by the final post-travel day (6.16 vs. 15.34).

DISCUSSION: Results suggest a cumulative effect of TBL, as the effects emerged on post-travel days 3-4. Intermittent TBL seems to alleviate jet lag symptoms.

Jurvelin H, Jokelainen J, Takala T. Transcranial bright light and symptoms of jet lag: a randomized, placebo-controlled trial. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2015; 86(4):344–350.

Keywords: Karolinska Sleepiness Scale; Profile of Mood States; Visual Analog Scale; field study; jet lag

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: April 1, 2015

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

    To access volumes 74 through 85, please click here.
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