It’s the major drawback to air travel that can keep us out of action for days after we’ve touched down – jet lag gets us all, from daytime sleepiness to the dreaded jelly legs.
Recently, researchers at the University of Edinburgh have shed some light on the issue of jet lag – literally (read more about it here). Studies show that cells in the retina directly affect our biological clock (known circadian rhythm), since it’s light and dark that govern our schedule. Jet lag occurs when our internal and external clocks get out of sync, and it’s tricky to get back to normal once we’ve crossed time zones.
Fortunately, a whole host of gadgets and hacks are on hand to help you through. We’ve rounded up a few for you to try…
1 – Get an app
Light is your body’s biggest indicator of whether it should be asleep or awake – that’s why a new light pattern on your travels is so disruptive. If you touch down in the daytime, the best thing to do is get plenty of sunlight to gently remind your body that is should be awake.
The fast track option? Get an app. Apps like Entrain help your body adjust to a new schedule by telling you how much light you need, when to seek it and when to avoid it. Just tap in your normal sleep pattern and where you’re travelling to, and it will figure out your tailor-made recovery plan. Genius.
2 – Upgrade your eyemask
Plenty of frequent flyers will tell you to pack an eyemask for the flight – the kind you snap over your head and hope for the best. But these days, ‘smart’ eyemasks are in the frame. Rather than simply blocking out the glare from your neighbour’s movie, they tackle the light issue by beaming in a whole new light schedule.
Neuroon slips on while you sleep, using Bright Light Therapy to set your body clock and tracking your circadian rhythm via a handy app. The slightly sillier looking Re-Timer is 25 years in the making, using UV-free blue-green light to reset your clock when worn for a schedule-friendly half an hour a day.
3 – Hack your body clock
Make trading time zones easier on your body by starting the switchover in advance. Figure out which way you’ll need to swing things (get up and go to bed earlier if you’re flying east, or later if you’re flying west) and start adjusting your schedule a few days before your trip, an extra hour each day. For example, get up a little earlier each day and seek plenty of light straight away, so your internal clock starts to adjust – studies have shown it can help you catch up quicker when you arrive in your new destination.
4 – Recharge
It may sound like something from sci-fi, but the Human Charger could be the niftiest jet lag gadget yet. It offers an alternative to Bright Light Therapy by sending UV-free white light straight into your brain – through your ears. Resembling an MP3 player, you simply pop in the LED earbuds, and the light flows through your ear canal into the photosensitive areas of your brain, increasing your alertness, energy and overall mood.
Designed by Finnish scientists and engineers to tackle their home country’s notoriously short winter days, the Human Charger claims to need just 12 minutes to fill you with a day’s worth of light, and using it a few times a day post-flight can nip jet lag in the bud. We’re sold…
5 – Sleep like an ostrich
A less elegant, but far comfier solution to unwanted light, the ostrich pillow rolls the classic neck pillow and eyemask into one, creating the ultimate napping pillow. It’s designed to cocoon your whole head (some models have holes for your hands, too!) to create a soft and warm space that will send you gently into a snooze. It tackles the light problem as well as blocking out noise, resulting in a far superior aeroplane nap and reduced jet lag. There’s a mini version, too, if you’re short on space (or easily embarrassed – picture below!).