Do jet lag apps really work? What to know about the science behind them – National

Jet lag from travelling can be a nuisance if you’re on vacation, a work trip or even returning home. But experts say there are ways to “minimize the misery,” such as using different apps.

A growing number of Canadians are hoping to squeeze in a summer getaway this year despite cost-of-living concerns, recent Ipsos polling done exclusively for Global News shows.

The further away one travels, the worse the jet lag can be.

“If you cross time zones, there’s a real extreme form of adjustment that happens,” said Olivia Walch, CEO of startup Arcascope and researcher in the department of neurology at the University of Michigan.

“Most people don’t have the best sense of what their circadian time or their biological time is,” she said in an interview with Global News.

Story continues below advertisement

Click to play video: 'Travel Tips: How to beat jet lag'

Travel Tips: How to beat jet lag

In recent years, several apps have been developed to mitigate the effects of jet lag and help people adjust their schedules to a new time zone.

Walch, who developed one of these apps, called Entrain back in 2014, said such tools “are great because it’s not always intuitive to know when light is helping you or hurting you.”

Here is what to know about jet lag and how different apps work to help overcome it.

Our body has an internal clock, called the circadian rhythm, which takes signals from the environment to remain aligned with the local time, said Ralph Mistlberger, an expert in behavioural neuroscience and a psychology professor at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, B.C.

Story continues below advertisement

This circadian rhythm regulates a person’s sleep cycle, telling them when to sleep and wake up. So, jet lag happens when a person’s body clock is misaligned from the time zone they are in.

The brain gets “totally confused” when it sees light and food earlier or later than expected, Walch said.

“I think of jet lag, almost like the process of if you’re on a swing and your friend is on a swing next to you, syncing up your swing with theirs,” Walch said.

Click to play video: 'Circadian rhythms: what it is and how it works'

Circadian rhythms: what it is and how it works

Jet lag can hit people in different ways and at different times, but most commonly it affects a person’s sleep.

Story continues below advertisement

That could mean they either have insomnia, trouble falling asleep, staying awake or they feel tired during the day.

The latest health and medical news
emailed to you every Sunday.

Some people may also feel nausea, Walch said, because your stomach might not be used to handling food at the time you’re eating it.

But these effects of jet lag are temporary.

Walch said the general consensus is that it takes about a day for every hour that a person is shifting time zones.

So, if you’re five hours away from your original location, it could take about five says to adjust and start feeling better.

There are several online apps available that are designed to help beat jet lag – some more effective than others, experts say.

Story continues below advertisement

For instance, Timeshifter, which is available on the App store and Google Play, takes your flight numbers and times and then sends alerts prompting actions related to light exposure, caffeine intake, taking melatonin and eating. It costs US$9.99 per plan but offers one free trial.

Another tool, called Jetlag Rooster, is not an app but a website, and it’s free to use.

It collects information about your flight and current sleep schedule and then based on an algorithm gives you a timeline of when you should try to sleep and seek light.

Click to play video: 'Health impacts and preparation for the time change'

Health impacts and preparation for the time change

Arcashift, developed by Walch, is not billed as a jet lag app but it focuses on beating shift work burnout.

Walch said this app is mostly tailored for people with irregular schedules, which jet lagged people are.

Story continues below advertisement

Among the differences between apps would be how accurate they are to your particular time zone, she said, but the basic idea of a jet lag app is to advise people on cues like light and food so they move closer to the new time zone.

“I think there are different levels of how practical the schedules are and how adjustable they are to what people’s constraints are on their schedule,” Walch said.

Mistlberger, who has advised professional sports teams like the Vancouver Canucks and Golden State Warriors, said he would normally guide players who were travelling to start shifting their schedules to the new time zone a day or two in advance.

“If you can prepare a few days in advance, then that can be really helpful,” he said.

Are jet lag apps effective?

Whichever app you choose to use, the most important thing to consider is the recommendation about light, both Walch and Mistlberger stressed.

Story continues below advertisement

Walch said light will shift the circadian clock, which is why it makes sense to recommend when to expose yourself to it or avoid it.

“If you come into it with no knowledge, which would be the case for most people, then the one thing that I would say is if the app doesn’t focus on light exposure, ignore it,” Mistlberger said.

There is limited scientific evidence on how effective apps can be to mitigate the effects of jet lag, but Walch said there is emerging data showing that if you get people light and put them on schedules in controlled environments, you can shift their circadian rhythms “really fast.”

“I would say the goal is to get people’s rhythms to sync up to the new time zone as quickly as possible,” she said.

Having used some of these apps himself, Mistlberger said he still gets jet lag when travelling but they can “really minimize the misery.”

Other tips to beat jet leg

Napping ahead of time, called “sleep banking,” before your flight can help overcome long periods of being wake, Walch advised.

Story continues below advertisement

Knowing when to be active and to exercise can also help a person get over jet lag, she said.

Click to play video: '10 ways to help reduce the effect of jet lag'

10 ways to help reduce the effect of jet lag

Taking a supplement of melatonin, which is a hormone in the body that regulates the sleep cycle, is another option.

Mistlberger said there is some evidence that melatonin can help reset your body clock and overcome jet lag.

“Good sleep solves everything,” he said.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *