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Beat Jet Lag With Some 'Light' Math

Beat Jet Lag With Some 'Light' Math

A faster way out of jet lag and back on track.

Beat Jet Lag With Some "Light" Math

Tuesday, September 30, 2014 - 17:30

Karin Heineman, ISTV Executive Producer

(Inside Science TV) – The price to fly across time zones isn't just the cost of a plane ticket. Often the price includes jet lag, which can leave you feeling sleepy and sluggish for days.

There's no easy way to fight jet lag and tons of coffee or "walking it off" doesn't help much. 

Now, Olivia Walch, a mathematician at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has helped develop an app that she says can actually beat jet lag faster than any other method.

 “We took a mathematical model of your body’s clock, and we figured out using mathematics, what lighting schedules would adjust that model, as fast as possible,” explained Walch.

The "clock" is your body's internal circadian clock that relies heavily on light to know the time of day.  The new app, called Entrain, uses math models to give users a schedule to stay in bright light, low light or be in the dark.

“Ours is based in math and mathematically proven to adjust the clock as quickly as possible," Walch said.

The app is built around the premise that light is the strongest signal to regulate circadian rhythms.

“You might wake up and be ready to start your day and the app will say 'stay in the dark,'" said Walch.

Usually when travelling, for every hour you shift it takes about a day to adjust.  For example, there is a three-hour time difference between New York and Los Angeles, meaning it would take about three days to recover from the jet lag of that trip. Imagine how long it would take to recover from a trip to New York from Hong Kong. This app could reduce the recovery time to about four or five days.

Researchers are interested in using math models to create lighting schedules for shift workers to ease insomnia and other health problems that they often face.


Get Inside The Science:

'Body Hack' App By Math Researchers Shortcuts Jet-Lag Recovery

Entrain Yourself

Olivia Walch, University of Michigan

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Karin Heineman

Karin Heineman is the executive producer of Inside Science TV.