Ask me what I least like about travel, and jet lag is right up near the top of the list, just after flight cancellations and slightly above airplane food. Sleepiness, brain fog, disorientation: they’re the last thing you want when you’re excited to explore a new destination, yet are pretty much guaranteed after skipping a few time zones.
However, as often happens, technology’s here to help. Here are seven apps and sites that promise to reduce the effects of jet lag, letting you arrive at your destination a little more refreshed and even get some much-needed sleep.
Jet Lag Rooster
This online tool sounds quite complicated, offering a personalized plan for fighting jet lag based on your flight time, how many time zones you’re skipping, and whether you’d like to start prepping for the change ahead of time or on arrival. Thankfully, Jet Lag Rooster‘s super-simple interface and detailed instructions make it all very easy.
After entering your flight details, usual sleeping times, and how early you’d like to start making adjustments, Jet Lag Rooster provides a tailored, specific timetable of when to sleep, when to get light exposure, when to get total darkness and when to take melatonin if you choose to do so.
Following the recommendations will help your body slowly adjust its circadian rhythm to a new time zone, both before and during your flight and after you arrive at your destination.
Similar to Jet Lag Rooster, Entrain suggests a personalized schedule to help adjust your body clock to the time zone at your destination. Developed by students at the University of Michigan, it’s a good option if you prefer having an app on your phone to using a website.
The process is the same as Jet Lag Rooster: you enter your flight information and get suggestions for when to sleep, get light exposure, and rest in total darkness to help the brain adapt. You can also volunteer your data to be used in future jet lag studies, so all those sleepless nights aren’t for nothing.
Timeshifter takes things a step further. This app takes the tools and calculations used by Entrain and Jet Lag Rooster, adds some extra variables (age, gender, and whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure,) and provides a personalized schedule with a few additional features.
Beyond just telling you when to sleep or get light exposure, Timeshifter will also recommend when to (optionally) have caffeine or take a nap. The app can also send reminders for you to stay awake or try to sleep, particularly useful if your schedule changes. It also offers specific super-quick plans for business travelers, and a schedule tailored specifically for athletes.
iOS and Android, free (in-app purchases, $9.99 per plan)
For something totally different, there’s Uplift. This app promises to solve jet lag in five minutes on the day you start or end your trip. That’s a lofty goal, since most people take around three days to start feeling better (or maybe that’s just me).
How does Uplift do that? It has nothing to do with circadian rhythms or sleeping patterns: instead, it uses acupressure. Depending on where you go and how many time zones you’re skipping, the app will recommend a combination of acupressure points.
There’s a video and guide to help you hit the right spots, and in five minutes, the app claims, you’ll be readjusted. There are hundreds of different plans, so you’ll have no trouble finding one for you, and the testimonials from satisfied users rave about how well it works.
iOS and Android, $9.99
There’s not much left to say about meditation these days, with everyone from entrepreneurs to medical professionals singing its praises. Devotees claim it helps with a range of mental and physical health issues from depression to headaches, providing techniques to aid relaxation and help with nervousness and fears.
Both those things aid with jet lag, too. Having a restful and pleasant flight (especially if you have a fear of flying,) and being able to relax and unwind after arrival help you sleep properly after arrival, and meditation provides a path to both.
Headspace is one of the top meditation apps on the market, with over 60 million users, and offers packages specifically for sleeping and fear of flying.
Web, iOS and Android, free (in-app purchases)
Exposure to natural light is essential for adjusting circadian rhythms and getting used to a different time zone. Artificial light, however, is a different story, especially the blue glow coming from laptops and smartphones. That doesn’t help at all, especially when you’re trying to sleep.
The answer is to get an app that regulates your blue light exposure outside daylight hours. f.lux, with applications for laptops and smartphones, is a personal favorite. This tool changes the color temperature of your device to match the current natural light, making the screen go softer and pinker as the sun sets, and back to bright, blue-tinged light when it rises.
This is useful in daily life, helping minimize sleep disruption after looking at screens late at night, and can also help reduce jet lag if you change your timezone to that of your destination a few days in advance.
MacOS, Windows, iOS, Android, and Linux, free
Is there anything worse than jetlag-induced insomnia? Yes: finally starting to feel sleepy at the right time, only to be unable to drop off due to a noisy environment.
Whether it comes from snoring bunkmates in a hostel dorm, traffic on a busy street outside, or the loud patrons of a nearby bar, it doesn’t really matter: it’s annoying as hell, and makes jet lag (and your grumpiness) last longer.
One of the best tools to block this nuisance (beyond earplugs, which don’t always work that well for me) is a white noise generator like myNoise. This service provides a wide range of background sounds tailored to different needs, like “Irish Coast” to aid focus, or “Fireplace” to help you calm down. For sleep, they have relaxing sounds like “Waterfall” or “Distant Thunder.”
Pop in your earphones or power up your little travel speaker, hit the play button, and banish that jet lag.
Web, iOS, and Android, free
Images via Cristian K. (feature photo), Kate Wellington (plane), onnola (arrivals sign), Hisashi (yawning cat), simenon (sleeping on the subway)