By Sharon Chin

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) — Researchers at Stanford and at a Menlo Park startup have come up with a wearable device that appears to limit the effects of jet lag.

When Stanford Ph.D student Tim Frank flew to Germany for an engineering conference, he knew he would struggle with jet lag at his first workshop.

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“I find it difficult to stay awake in the afternoon,” said Frank.

But on this trip, he felt fine. He credited a sleep mask. “Wearing it the night before and the first night I arrived, I was ready to go the first day of the conference,” Frank said.

The mask uses light therapy to help your body clock adjust to a new time zone while you sleep.

The product came from researcher Jamie Zietzer, Assistant Professor of Stanford Center for Sleep Sciences and Menlo Park startup LumosTech.

It works by fooling the user’s brain into thinking its in another time zone. A person flying from San Francisco to New York would wear the mask the night before. The mask flashes lights when the sun rises in New York, conditioning it as being on East Coast time.

“So what we’re doing with these flashes of light is we’re mimicking what’s occurring with the sun, except that it’s occurring while you’re asleep,” Zietzer said. “So when you wake up, “Your brain is almost all the way in New York even before you leave California.”

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The user programs the mask by entering  personal information into LumosTech’s app. While wearing the mask, one can see the flashes of light underneath the diffuser. They are very short, like camera flashes. Most people report the flashes do not disrupt their sleep.

About 200 people have tested the technology,. some of them at Stanford’s sleep lab.

LumosTech CEO Vanessa Burns said the light therapy can adjust a person’s body clock by about two-to-three hours a night.

“If you’re going to Europe or going on a flight that’s longer than transcontinental, say more than three hours, you can use it for multiple nights and it’ll have an additive effect ,” Burns said.

Tech executive Bill Reichert wore the mask when he traveled to China on business. Although he had to get used to wearing the mask, he said he did not have his usual problems sleeping through the night. “I’ll give partial credit to the sleep mask and partial credit to the fact that I was just exhausted,” Reichert concluded.

Zietzer said the mask can help anyone with weird sleeping schedules, like graveyard shift workers who need to get to bed when it’s still daylight.

“We’ll be able to move their brain to different point so they’ll get tired earlier in the night to enable them to get more sleep,” said Zietzer.

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LumosTech expects to put the mask on the market soon, hoping to help people get a good night’s sleep.