Jetlag can be a real killer for business travellers, but a new iPhone app promises to shed days of drowsiness by better-planning your schedule before, during and after crossing time zones.
Developed by the University of Michigan, the Entrain app analyses your upcoming travel and suggests the best light/dark schedule to help you quickly adjust to the new time zone.
The theory behind Entrain is that exposure to light at different levels and times of the day affects your internal clock.
Adjusting your schedule even before you travel to bring your ‘home time’ either forwards or backwards – usually by just one hour each day – helps you get more in sync with your destination.
How Entrain works
A few days before your flight, enter your destination and local time of arrival into the app.
If you're planning to stray from your usual timed sleep schedule, you can do that too:
Throughout the day, you can also enter your ongoing light exposure, even if it differs from the app’s advice.
The ongoing schedule is then updated to reflect your actual patterns, and by following the app’s guidance, travellers can cut their full adjustment period down to only three to five days – either before or after travel.
Further to the light exposure schedule, the app graphs your changing sleeping patterns against what’s natural for the new time zone, and shows you how well you’re adjusting.
Your Entrain schedule
The app relies on your honest input, and while it's a nice idea, the advice given out is somewhat questionable on shorter journeys.
A good example for travellers from Australia's eastern cost is Asia, which is typically 2-3 hours behind Australian time.
We entered timings to match Singapore Airlines' SQ212 flight from Sydney, which reaches Singapore at 1pm.
Entrain's suggestions surprised us...
The generated schedule would see us exposed to low levels of indoor light until 11pm on the day of arrival, which is fair.
However, on waking at 7am the following morning, it suggested being exposed to just two hours of light before suddenly taking an eight hour sleep and three further hours of darkness – chances are your boss won’t agree with your need to spend an entire day ‘recovering’ in Singapore.
Entrain for longer journeys
Obviously, the app should remain closed for small time differences – where it does come in handy is on longer flights spanning many time zones.
If you're taking QF11 from Sydney to Los Angeles on April 24 and your schedule at home is a little flexible, here's how to beat jetlag before you've even reached the airport:
The suggested timings assume you'll be exposed to bright indoor light during waking hours, although that can be adjusted as your day progresses.
Accordingly, you'll want to don your eyeshade at 12:48pm Sydney time on April 24 – two hours and 58 minutes after your scheduled 9:50am departure from Sydney.
After sleeping throughout the flight, you'll be set to wake at 5:20am local time in Los Angeles – 70 minutes before your arrival, and hopefully just in time for breakfast. Perfect!
(This timing was just out of view on the iPhone, but can be accessed by scrolling down in the app.)
Entrain is available for free in the iTunes App Store, with a version for Android in the works.
Have you used Entrain or other jetbag-busting apps? We’d love to hear about your experience in the comments below.
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