Jet lag is a burden that all those who travel must bear. It becomes increasingly frustrating to go through, and recovering from it is a long drawn out process.
Thankfully, technology has managed to come to our rescue.
A free app has been designed for the iPhone, and will provide certain aids to help people adapt to different time zones in an efficient manner, and quicker when compared to the manual adjustment of one’s body.
Researchers from the University of Michigan, Kirill Serkh and Daniel B Forger are the brains behind the research involved in the conception and development of the app, called Entrain.
Entrain is specifically designed to deal with the combination of issues that make up jet lag – from tiredness to disorientation. This usually occurs after a long air journey, due to disruption of the internal body clock, which relies on specific timings of exposure to daylight and darkness. The degree of severity of jet lag is directly proportional to the number of time zones a person crosses while they are travelling. Jet lag causes sleep patterns to go haywire.
Short naps and lots of water are said to be helpful in overcoming jet lag. However, the researchers believe that the issue is merely a mathematical problem, and can be solved using the Entrain app.
So how exactly does Entrain work? Well, it creates a custom schedule of ‘light and darkness’ exposure. This schedule will let a person know when they should be exposed to bright light, and when they need to be in the dark. Following this schedule could help regulate the body clock much faster, and thus adapt to time zones quickly.
The calculation of the light schedules is done by using mathematical models, and combining this knowledge with a method, called optimal control theory.
So, in order to smoothly use Entrain, one must first put in their usual hours of exposure to light and darkness, in the time zone that they live in. Then, they need to choose the time zone that they will be heading to, and the time taken to travel. A very important factor would be to mention just how bright the light around a person would be, if that was the kind of light they would be exposed to for a long time.
After putting these details, the app will then offer them a personalized schedule.
According to the founders, Entrain made use of the most optimal way to overcome jet lag.
However, there is a problem – not everyone will stick to the tight schedule. Only those who did so strictly would have their internal boy clock adjusted by the following morning. Those who slacked off would take longer to recover.
The app sometimes asked that users be exposed to periods of light and darkness at odd hours. But even then, the researchers who designed the app have a solution. If a person had to be exposed to light in the night, then they would use a lightbox. If they had to be exposed to darkness, they would have to wear pink tinted glasses which would block the light that would disrupt the internal body clock.
Where could Entrain and its findings be used? Not only for those with long journeys, but it could even be used to improve the health standards of cabin crew and captains in the aviation industry.