Tinted specs help Lions counter jetlag
Johannesburg - The Lions will get a bit of help from science
this year as they embark on the away leg of their Super Rugby campaign.
As they travel to Japan for their first Super Rugby match of
the season, the team will be using a pair of odd looking red-lensed glasses to
help them cope with the effects of jetlag - an issue which often affects the
performance of South African sportsmen when they travel internationally.
“It is tough for our local teams when the travel across to
Australia, New Zealand and now Japan,” says Golden Lions team physician Dr Rob Collins.
“They often arrive only a day before a game and the effects of jetlag are
difficult to manage. Sleeping tablets help but can sometimes leave you drowsy
and lacking energy, as they take a while to work out the system after waking
up. Furthermore, at this level of the game, rest and sleep at the right time
and in the right quantity is critical to performance.”
The SleepSpec is a pair of glasses with amber lenses
developed Dr Rob Daniel, a specialist ophthalmologist with training in human
physiology and neuroscience. Daniel has researched the human sleep control
system and by combining the latest scientific research, his understanding of
neurophysiology and his understanding of how the eye processes light, he was
able to make the connection between light and the process of sleeping and
“Our body clock is controlled by something called the
circadian rhythm,” explains Daniel. “This is the 24 hour cycle of day and night
which controls our sleep patterns and is adapted to the earth’s natural rhythm
of day and night.”
At night, as the sun sets the body produces melatonin,
commonly known as the sleep hormone which is needed to prepare the body to
sleep. When the sun rises, light - in particular blue light - increases
stopping the production of melatonin, causing the body to wake up.
“Nowadays, however artificial light from lamps and
particularly from electronic devices, means that the brain struggles to
distinguish the change from day to night, melatonin production is suppressed
and so our bodies are unable to move effectively into sleep mode,” says Daniel.
The same thing happens as one travels across time zones. The
natural circadian rhythm is disturbed - the sleep-wake pattern is upset, as are
the rhythms for eating and working. Until all these factors are able to respond
properly to the new environment we experience jet-lag. This is not ideal for sportsmen who need to
be able to perform at their physical best immediately.
The SleepSpec works by filtering out blue light and allowing
the body to produce melatonin and therefore prepare for sleep regardless of the
actual time of the day.
“One simply has to wear the SleepSpec for a minimum of two
hours before wanting to go to sleep,” explains Daniel. “This allows for
sufficient melatonin production to take place and provided the room is
completely dark and there are no sources of blue light the body’s natural sleep
pattern will take place.”
Furthermore, melatonin is the body’s most powerful
anti-oxidant and performs the important function of ridding all cells of free
radicals and other toxins. Therefore good quality sleep is crucial for the
health and of all athletes and will greatly boost performance and health.
“We are very pleased to use the SleepSpecs as a new
technology, which will help with sleep and recovery. The specs will also be
very useful in managing the many time zone changes needed in Super Rugby this
year, especially with us only being in Japan for four days and then moving
directly onto New Zealand for two weeks, with a one week return trip to
Argentina later in the year,” says Collins.