Researchers Design Math App to Fight Jetlag


University of Michigan researchers have designed a free app that helps beat jetlag and enables people to adapt to new time zones faster than before.

"Overcoming jetlag is fundamentally a math problem and we've calculated the optimal way of doing it," study author Danny Forger of the University of Michigan, said in a press release. "We're certainly not the first people to offer advice about this, but our predictions show the mathematically best and quickest ways to adjust across time zones."

It is already known that a master biological clock, circadian rhythm, regulates sleep and wake up time. The internal body clock has to reset itself again when travelling across time zones. Doctors and medical professionals say light is the clock's strongest regulator.

"If you get light in the wrong time or wrong way, it'll send you the wrong direction," math professor Forger, said, Huffington Post reports.

For the study, Michigan mathematicians used two equations to arrive at a person's circadian rhythm. The researchers also developed different schedules of light exposure levels using computer modeling for more than 1,000 possible trips.

The free iPhone app, named Entrain, does all the necessary calculations for the timely light exposure to fully overcome jetlag.

For example: A flight from Detroit to London, arrives 11:00 a.m. London time (five hours ahead). In this situation, the app recommends a three-day adjustment schedule. On the next day of arrival, the app suggests users to light exposure from 7:40 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.; from 6:20 a.m. to 7:40 p.m. on day 2; and from 5:00 a.m. until 7:20 p.m. on Day 3.

The finding promises to enhance the health and quality of life for pilots, flight attendants and shift workers among others.

Entrain, available for free via the Apple store, hasn't yet been tested with travelers to determine its efficiency.

"Before we really believe it, it has to go through testing," said sleep-medicine specialist Dr. Steven Altchuler, an assistant professor of psychiatry at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine. But "there's very little risk of harm if someone wants to try these things."

The finding is published in the journal PLoS Computational Biology.

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