A new way to optimize sleep and light exposure can reduce jet lag and improve alertness

December 18, 2019

TROY, N.Y. -- Whether you're traveling for work or for fun, nothing ruins the start of a trip quite like jet lag. Engineers affiliated with the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed a way to deliver personalized advice using smart wearable technology that would help travelers adjust more quickly.

In a series of articles, including one published today in PLOS ONE, the researchers explain how they have developed and demonstrated a series of algorithms that can analyze biometric information recorded by a smart device and then recommend the best combination of sleep and light to help a person readjust their circadian rhythm.

"Using these algorithms and a mathematical model of a person's circadian rhythm, we have the ability to compute the best light to adjust your circadian rhythm and foster your well-being. This opens the opportunity to create a smart and healthy environment," said Agung Julius, an associate professor of electrical, computer, and systems engineering at Rensselaer and one of the authors on this paper.

The same, he said, goes for determining the sleep -- both how much and when it should be received -- a person needs.

Circadian rhythms are master internal clocks that help regulate many of our physiological processes, including sleep, metabolism, hormone secretion, and even how our brain functions. Energy, alertness, and other biological processes can suffer when that rhythm doesn't align with the clock one is actually trying to follow.

The Department of Defense is funding this research because of the benefits the researchers' findings could bring to the alertness of service members.

"The circadian and sleep processes are also very tightly related to your mental state and how alert you are," Julius said. "If you try to do something in the wrong time of day, your alertness is not going to be as effective as if you do it in the right time of day as defined by your circadian clock."

Julius explained that a person's circadian rhythm variation is typically determined using information gathered from a blood or saliva test that measures levels of the hormone melatonin. The problem with that traditional approach is that obtaining the results takes time and doesn't allow for instant analysis.

The LESA team, which includes John Wen, head of the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering at Rensselaer and co-author on this paper, has been working on algorithms that process data -- like heart rate and body temperature -- that can be collected from wearable smart technology and converted into an estimate of a person's circadian rhythm variation.

"The question is whether that kind of data can give you as accurate an estimation as the clinical standard," Julius said.

What the team has found and demonstrated is that the estimates their algorithms generated are in line with clinical hormone measurement techniques. Julius said these findings are indicative that the team's approach works.

"This work is important, because it characterizes the fundamental processes the human body uses to synchronize circadian and sleep processes. By developing biosensing analytics to characterize circadian phase, it is now possible to optimize the efficient use of light with appropriate spectral properties to help optimize and maintain human health and performance," said Robert Karlicek, the director of the LESA Center. "This will be important to other work related to lighting and health in LESA's clinical research test beds at Thomas Jefferson University and the University of New Mexico."
-end-
About Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Founded in 1824, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is America's first technological research university. Rensselaer encompasses five schools, 32 research centers, more than 145 academic programs, and a dynamic community made up of more than 7,900 students and over 100,000 living alumni. Rensselaer faculty and alumni include more than 145 National Academy members, six members of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, six National Medal of Technology winners, five National Medal of Science winners, and a Nobel Prize winner in Physics. With nearly 200 years of experience advancing scientific and technological knowledge, Rensselaer remains focused on addressing global challenges with a spirit of ingenuity and collaboration. To learn more, please visit http://www.rpi.edu.

About the Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Center

The Lighting Enabled Systems & Applications (LESA) Center is an interdisciplinary, multi-university center developing "Systems that Think™". It engages faculty members, research staff, graduate and undergraduate students, and industry members to work on research leading to intelligent systems with adaptive and controllable properties that will change the way society lives and works. The Center joins academia, industry and government in partnership to produce transformational engineered systems, along with highly trained engineering graduates who are adept at innovation and primed for leadership in the global economy. Originally funded by the National Science Foundation, LESA is headquartered at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y., and partners with Boston University, The University of New Mexico, and Thomas Jefferson University to achieve its objectives. To learn more, go to http://www.lesa.rpi.edu.

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Related Sleep Articles from Brightsurf:

Size and sleep: New research reveals why little things sleep longer
Using data from humans and other mammals, a team of scientists including researchers from the Santa Fe Institute has developed one of the first quantitative models that explains why sleep times across species and during development decrease as brains get bigger.

Wind turbine noise affects dream sleep and perceived sleep restoration
Wind turbine noise (WTN) influences people's perception of the restorative effects of sleep, and also has a small but significant effect on dream sleep, otherwise known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep, a study at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, shows.

To sleep deeply: The brainstem neurons that regulate non-REM sleep
University of Tsukuba researchers identified neurons that promote non-REM sleep in the brainstem in mice.

Chronic opioid therapy can disrupt sleep, increase risk of sleep disorders
Patients and medical providers should be aware that chronic opioid use can interfere with sleep by reducing sleep efficiency and increasing the risk of sleep-disordered breathing, according to a position statement from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

'Short sleep' gene prevents memory deficits associated with sleep deprivation
The UCSF scientists who identified the two known human genes that promote 'natural short sleep' -- nightly sleep that lasts just four to six hours but leaves people feeling well-rested -- have now discovered a third, and it's also the first gene that's ever been shown to prevent the memory deficits that normally accompany sleep deprivation.

Short sleep duration and sleep variability blunt weight loss
High sleep variability and short sleep duration are associated with difficulties in losing weight and body fat.

Nurses have an increased risk of sleep disorders and sleep deprivation
According to preliminary results of a new study, there is a high prevalence of insufficient sleep and symptoms of common sleep disorders among medical center nurses.

Common sleep myths compromise good sleep and health
People often say they can get by on five or fewer hours of sleep, that snoring is harmless, and that having a drink helps you to fall asleep.

Sleep tight! Researchers identify the beneficial role of sleep
Why do animals sleep? Why do humans 'waste' a third of their lives sleeping?

Does extra sleep on the weekends repay your sleep debt? No, researchers say
Insufficient sleep and untreated sleep disorders put people at increased risk for metabolic problems, including obesity and diabetes.

Read More: Sleep News and Sleep Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.