The system was tested on a simulated 12-hour shift of a sleep-wake schedule. This is similar to what a person would experience when traveling from New York to Hong Kong. Simulation results show that the computer-generated treatment schedule produced faster performance recovery.
"This work shows how interventions can cut the number of days needed to adjust to a new time zone by half," study co-author Daniel Forger said in a prepared statement.
Properly timed light exposure can reset the circadian body clock to align with a new time zone. But using bright light therapy at the wrong times can be detrimental.
"Timed light exposure is a well-known method for beating jet lag,” Forger told CNN. “But few people realize that if timed incorrectly, it can actually make jet lag worse."
The authors report that it can be hard to create general rules for a treatment schedule. It may take weeks to manually design and test a treatment schedule. In contrast, the program tested in this study can produce an effective treatment schedule on a laptop computer in less than two minutes.
But it may be a while before this program is available to the public. Forger told CNN that it could be five years before the product is ready for release.
The authors also report that their system can be used for other jet lag treatments. Their next step will be to develop modules for interventions such as naps, caffeine and melatonin.
And the system may be useful in developing treatment schedules for people with shift work sleep disorder.
Go to SleepEducation.com to get more details about this study.
Read the full text of the study on the Web site of PLoS Computational Biology.
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Image by Kossy