Magazine article Newsweek

Airplane Designs That Could Counteract Jet Lag; the Airbus A350 XWB Has an LED Lighting System That Is Meant to Keep Your Circadian Rhythm on Beat

Magazine article Newsweek

Airplane Designs That Could Counteract Jet Lag; the Airbus A350 XWB Has an LED Lighting System That Is Meant to Keep Your Circadian Rhythm on Beat

Article excerpt

Byline: Ed Cara

Modern-day flight is a miracle with side effects. You can get halfway around the world, traversing multiple time zones in just hours, but fatigue and disorientation are sure to ruin the first day in your destination city. What we commonly call jet lag is actually a form of circadian desynchrony--a disruption to the body's internal clock. There are some useful remedies available: Over-the-counter doses of melatonin, a hormone that helps align the circadian rhythm, can lessen the symptoms if taken at the right time, for example. But what if the plane itself could prevent jet lag?

French-based aircraft manufacturer Airbus designed a new plane, the A350 XWB, fitted with LEDs that can generate 16.7 million color combinations of light inside the cabin. The idea is to trick passengers' bodies by exposing them to faux sunlight that changes throughout the flight, mimicking the natural progression of day into night and night into day. If it works, it could be a boon to those who travel regularly; when circadian rhythm disruptions--also commonly seen in people who work night shifts or are constantly exposed to artificial lighting--become chronic, they can have longer-term effects on the body, raising the risk for life-threatening conditions such as heart disease and obesity.

Though the A350 hasn't undergone any clinical testing, it could in theory work, says Frank Scheer, neuroscientist and researcher of circadian and sleep disorders at Harvard University. "The most important property of effectively resynchronizing your body clock with light is timing," he says. …

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