Jet lag is the worst. Everyone hates it. And it's not like anyone even secretly enjoys jet lag, either. There's no better way to foul up a vacation than to spend all day in bed, wasting those precious daylight hours because your internal clock's out of whack. But a new app developed by math experts at the University of Michigan hopes to fix all that.
The free app, called Entrain, helps users get acclimated to another time zone ahead of arrival. Sure, savvy travelers already know that light exposure and switching sleep cycles before flying can help -- but most people don't have the time nor inclination to wake up at weird times or pull all-nighters, let alone submerging themselves in darkness and sun lamps. Entrain simplifies all that. It does the math, syncing circadian rhythms (natural sleep cycles) to time zones on upwards of 1,000 trips.
Here's how it works:
- First, input the date, time, origin, and destination.
- Next, choose the kind of light (low or bright office lighting, or low/bright daylight) most prevalent to on your trip. Basically, determine whether you'll be there on holiday or business.
- The app will then generate your tailored "optimal schedule", a kind of light calendar that tells you when and what kind of light you should take in leading up to your trip; you can scroll through each day to see your recommended routine, hour-by-hour. Of course, you can modify your wake/sleep time to account for an afternoon nap or a night on the town.
- While the app helps you attain a better sleep pattern in your new time zone, it doesn't promise the same before you travel: Your itinerary might tell you to block out light in the middle of the day (Entrain's creators suggest sexy, orange-tinted glasses), or absorb bright light in the middle of the night -- in which case, you'll need to dig out that 10,000-lux lamp buried in the back of the closet.
- To chart your progress as you go along, a fancy Metrics page compares your old and new routines on a graph and displays your "lighting plan" and "sleep drive" in action.
Basically, it's science. It doesn't mean it'll be easy. But if you're afraid of missing out on beach time or passing out at the club, well, Entrain looks to be your solution.
Take a closer look at the iPhone app, available here, in the video below: