Can Your Phone Help You Avoid Days of Jet Lag?

A new app uses science and math to ease your body’s circadian clock into new time zones

Travelers, particularly international travelers, are prone to making mistakes that can take a toll on their trips. Not only do they have a long checklist of the things to remember, but packing can be tricky and jet lag can easily ruin a trip. The energy-zapping phenomenon, jet lag, seemed unavoidable until a team at the University of Michigan created an app called Entrain.

Entrain is an app that aims to help users adjust to new time zones as quickly as possible. The app is one of many apps that try to offset jet lag, but no other app uses science or math. NPR spoke with the designer of the app to understand the formula.

Using two mathematical equations that predict how light affects the human circadian clock, Forger and his colleagues simulated the optimal schedules for more than 1,000 possible trips. They then applied two basic principles. One is to be exposed to one big block of light and one big block of dark in your day. Another is to be exposed to the brightest possible light.

The equations themselves aren't new; they have been used by NASA, the transportation industry and the military, according to Forger. But he says he's finally putting that technology in the palm of the average person's hand.

The app is easy to use, after answering a few initial questions, you can choose your destination and the app will create a schedule for you. If you’re not able to adhere to the exact schedule, you can update the information and Entrain will readjust your schedule. Investors say it could greatly reduce jet lag, in some cases cutting adjustment time in half.

Entrain is free and available for iPhones. The website says there will be a version available for android devices, as well. But they are awaiting feedback from users before they release an android version.


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