Toine Schoutens

Why Expats Should Beat Jet Lag

Expats often travel a lot crossing many time zones, sometimes several times a year. Jet lag is a fairly innocent situation that occurs anytime you cross at least three time zones, putting your sleeping and waking rhythms out of sync with the day and night rhythms of the time zone you’re currently in. Sleep/wake cycles, or circadian rhythms, are regulated by a group of light-sensitive brain cells.

Light stimulates these cells to produce the metabolic hormone cortisol, released by the adrenal cortex and to suppress the ‘night hormone’ melatonin. If that rhythm is disturbed, it’s not only your sleeping and waking patterns that get disrupted, but also, for example, your body temperature, blood pressure and intestinal system. That makes you feel tired and in the end, you won’t perform so well. The extent to which jet lag affects people can vary considerably: one person can suffer far more than another. But an expat with jet lag can forget about being alert and concentrated during a first meeting, for example, with an employer. It will rarely happen. Even if someone is used to crossing multiple time zones and stepping from the plane into meetings, they won’t be as sharp and focused as without jet lag. One way to suppress jet lag is by arriving at your planned destination ahead of time, but as it takes an average of one day recovery for every one to two time zones crossed, that can mean getting there several days or perhaps weeks beforehand. And that’s pretty much impossible and too expensive for most expats in both time and money.

We’ve designed Propeaq light glasses for use in three principal areas. Firstly, to counter the effects of jet lag. Most of the time, jet lag is beaten with sleep medication or melatonin, but this causes many side effects. Blue light therapy, however, is effective, harmless, and easy to use. It’s not only expats who can benefit from this, but also frequent flyers and elite athletes. During the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, more than 115 Olympians used Propeaq with success. Secondly, the glasses are effective in combatting the ‘winter blues’, which is when people feel a lack of energy and ‘get-up-and-go’ in the winter. By using a lot of blueish light in the morning, you encourage your body to produce more of the metabolic hormone cortisol, and that allows you to release more of the energy stored in your body. The third area is the nightshift. Around 15 percent of the workers in the Netherlands don’t work nine to five, and that can have quite an impact. People working irregular hours over longer periods of time are less productive, make more mistakes and often have sleep and digestion-related problems. In the longer term, for example, they’re more likely to become obese and develop type II diabetes. Expats are also often working at irregular times.

You can combine aspects and benefits of these three markets and use the technology to temporarily boost people’s energy levels. Using the blueish light can have the same effect as an afternoon nap. Although it doesn’t work equally well for everyone, it generally makes people feel more energetic. People are made to be outside, not to dwell in caves. If you spend the whole day working outside, you won’t need a siesta. But people working indoors do, because inside it’s often fifty times darker than outside. By using Propeaq light glasses, the expat can shift his/her sleep pattern and be razor-sharp at early morning or late evening meetings.

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