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Finally, a Jet Lag Cure That Has Been Scientifically Proven to Work

Finally, a Jet Lag Cure That Has Been Scientifically Proven to Work
Jeff Edwards

For frequent flyers looking for a cure to jet lag, it turns out there’s an app for that. Even better, United Airlines elite flyers will have earned unlimited access to personalized jet lag combatting plans provided by Timeshifter. Even lowly “basic” MileagePlus members without premier status will have access to a free trial of the innovative new program.

Articles about hangover cures and jet lag solutions are almost always disappointing. It seems the key to avoiding a hangover is always to limit your alcohol intake and the key to avoiding jet lag is to slowly acclimate yourself to the new time zone and sleep schedule. For some reason, drinking plenty of water is the answer to everything from weight loss to insomnia. These technically correct suggestions are almost as unhelpful as they are predictable.

There are also more than a few outside-the-box jet lag solutions that are as unfeasible as they are bizarre. The “CIA approved” method of fasting for days before traveling actually sounds worse than dealing with jet lag.  Just last year, Delta Air Lines experimented with offering complimentary yoga classes to elite passengers (who apparently have all the time in the world when traveling).  One especially cutting edge and concerning treatment for jet lag involved cryotherapy chambers with temperatures reaching as low as –200 degrees Fahrenheit.

A new partnership between United and Timeshifter, however, may just offer a reasonable and effective way to make crossing several time zones easier on the mind and body. The app-based system is said to have been developed by “top researchers in sleep and circadian neuroscience.” According to the airline, the personalized plans are intended for passengers with itineraries crossing three or more time zones on United flights.

“We want to do everything we can to help improve the experience of traveling across time zones, whether it’s a business trip to Tel Aviv or a vacation to Tahiti, our customers should arrive feeling fresh and ready to hit the ground running,” MileagePlus President Luc Bondar said in a statement announcing the partnership. “Timeshifter takes all the guesswork out of avoiding jet lag and instead uses science and algorithms to design a customized, step-by-step trip across time zones. I was a believer the first time I used the app and I think our customers will love it too.”

The Timeshifter app relies on an algorithm used to customize plans based on factors such as typical sleep patterns, scheduled flights and other preferences and personal behaviors. The trip-specific interactive plans offer instructions for when travelers should expose themselves to bright light and when to avoid light as much as possible. Timeshifter also provides individualized sleep and nap schedules based on his or her own sleep preferences along with suggested times to take melatonin (a natural sleep aid) or caffeine (definitely not a sleep aid).

At least one FlyerTalk member concurred with Bondar’s glowing review of the Timeshifter app. Like most other regimes, the system’s results depend entirely on how stringently users follow the instructions.

“You put in your flight info, and it calculates a plan based on flight times, layovers, etc. The ‘program’ starts several days before you depart,” FlyerTalker DMSFCA wrote in a September 7th post. “It will have to you going to bed sooner (or later), getting up earlier/later, exposing yourself to bright/sunlight during specific periods, drinking coffee/tea/caffeine – all over a slowly adjusting lead-up to your flight. It will also include things to do after you arrive over the next few days to get you back on track. For this trip, I decided to follow it religiously. I didn’t question why it was telling me to do this or do that, I just followed it blindly …and it actually worked pretty well. The day after I arrived, I had a brief 1pm heavy eyelids moment, but that was about it. I went and purchased the product (on iPhone). I used it again on some flights to/from Japan and was less successful because I didn’t follow the formula to the T. I was definitely better than I had been on previous trips, but the more you can adhere to the program, the more successful you will be.”

For United Airlines passengers with MileagePlus accounts, there is really no downside to taking advantage of this free trial. if it doesn’t work, there is always the option of carrying oxygen tanks on your next trip  or setting up a bank of flashing lights in a hotel room or better yet, as the CEO of British Airways parent company International Airlines, Willie Walsh recommends, “A couple of glasses helps you to sleep – red wine is the cure for everything!”

Have you had experience with Timeshifter or similar algorithm-based jet lag fighting apps? Will you take advantage of United’s offer or is it just a free sample of snake oil? Fellow frequent flyers are burning the midnight oil in the Travel Tools forum right now.

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1 Comment

  1. zarkov505

    January 13, 2020 at 12:33 pm

    Almost fifteen years ago, I did an experiment with self-hypnosis.

    I anchored resetting my body clock to resetting my wristwatch.

    I have not had jet lag since. I depart out of DFW, bound for NRT. I reset my watch somewhere over the Pacific. I’m on Japan time when we land at NRT. No problem. Same story the other way.

    This CAN backfire. If you arrive at your destination at 8 AM local time, because of e.g. IRROPS WX or MX, you will be physically exhausted, and NEED to sleep, but your body clock will be telling you it is time to be up and moving. Been there, done that, didn’t get the T-shirt, forced myself to sleep a few hours, still made it to the afternoon party.

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