The Circadian Circus
Come fly with me, let’s fly, let’s fly away… There’s a romance to being in the sky. Soaring above the clouds, floating on air, it’s incredible. I’ve flown hundreds of thousands of miles in my life as an engineer. The idea of flying is still exciting for me. I’m fascinated by the logistics of air travel. Over 17,000 airports worldwide working together in real-time to take millions of people across the globe. Flying, especially for business, has a dark side. We all hate it, we hate talking about it, we hate feeling it, we hate hearing about it. Jet lag.
I’ve tried many methods to tame the beast. “Fists with your toes” a la Die Hard, wet socks and a glass of scotch before bed or scores of cups of coffee to tell my body that the beans are in charge. The single best method I have found is being outdoors in the new time zone and letting the sun do its job. This isn’t always easy, especially on a business trip. Nothing has really negated the drain jet lag has on me. I recently learned of an app called Timeshifter. Smart software and automatic scheduling for my trip, throw in an endorsement from a NASA Astronaut and you’ve got my attention. This is my experiment in this new method.
I’m travelling from Scotland to Mexico, a 28.5 hour journey with a 6 hour time difference. Firstly the user interface was simple, clean and easy to navigate. I added my flights and chose my options. Do I use caffeine? Excessively, yes. Do I want to use Melatonin to aid my sleep cycle? Sure, anything that helps.
Becoming accustomed to the app was very easy. The UI is clean and modern. The flight entry was easy and kind of fun. Once set up with the itinerary TimeShifter provided me with a very easy to follow calendar display with three main columns. Column 1 tells me if I should be exposed to daylight or not. Column 2 shows me where I’m allowed to have caffeine or not (although not how much) and the third shows when I should aim for sleep. As someone who doesn’t tend to nap this can be difficult.
Beginning My Journey
Writing this on Friday two days before my flight I realise that it may not be possible to follow the instructions to a tee. I’ll keep as close as possible. If I am advised to be in low light and I can’t, I’ll use blue light filter glasses for electronic screens or sunglasses for outdoors. The routine is close to my natural sleep cycle so no issues here. Sunday morning – picking up the app on a day of travel. The initial landing page of the app is a short 4-hour display showing you what you need to know right now. Using this has made me realise some mistakes I’d made in the past. Normally I would have coffee first thing to try to prep myself for the first flight. Judging from what the app displays it seems a short nap on the first flight is more useful than a coffee. I guess it helps push my rhythms back a few hours that way. The display is great. It takes moments to recognise and is easy to follow. Except for the banning of coffee.
Due to the current travel situation (the 2020 one) I was fortunate enough to get a row to myself on the flight. Grabbing some shut-eye was a lot easier this way. Whilst on the subject if you buy a sleep mask always opt for one with a double strap as it diverts pressure away from the eyes. It makes for better cover and more comfortable sleep.
Layover in Mexico City
So far I have felt great. I am a lot less sluggish and much more aware of my surroundings. With a 13 hour layover, it’s time to grab a hotel. While it may be cheating a little to grab a hotel overnight I definitely feel pretty good. I couldn’t sleep as long as the app told me due to the low-level stress of missing a flight but I do feel well-rested.
The Last Leg
Sitting here on my final leg at 7:30 am ready knowing I’ll be done in a couple of hours. I feel like I’ve just had an early morning rather than taken a rough flight with a bad time change. There is no feeling of fatigue.
I am massively surprised by how effective this method has been. It’s quite a rigorous timescale to follow and as someone who struggles to sleep on flights, it’s difficult. I would say that I kept true to the schedule for 80% of the recommendations. Whilst I’m still tired during my first couple of days. I’d estimate that the effects of jetlag have been reduced by 80%. This will definitely be a travel essential for me moving forward.
What would I like to see from this app in the future?
I’m a fan of the smart home setup. Integrating the schedule here with Alexa for lights and alarms would be really cool.
What I think they missed
Hydration is key to travel. The speed of international commuting can be crazy. Staying hydrated means drinking small amounts of water before you are thirsty. This is a huge factor for me. A little reminder in the app to hydrate would be nice. Along with some advice for optimal foods.
From all my years flying around one should never underestimate the power of a good shower. On a 4 hour layover, it’s worth paying the 15 bucks to grab one in the terminal. For you and your fellow passengers
About the Author
Robbie is a motivated, focused, and dedicated Laser Engineer at A-Laser. Robbie studied Manufacturing Systems Engineering at Glasgow Caledonian University, graduating in 2013. He then took a graduate role at Tannlin Technology in the UK where he worked on the systems team. His role included product improvement, customer assistance, system building, and engineering analysis. His five years of experience working at Tannlin, often in the field, required thinking on his feet and working with limited resources. Outside of engineering, Robbie enjoys photography, as he likes to keep a part of his life in a creative field so that he can work that muscle when he needs to. Robbie excels in roles that combine technical expertise and project coordination and strives to deliver value to customers. Robbie is highly appreciated for his client-centric approach and his ability to build strong client relationships. If you have questions or want to discuss laser technology, please reach out to Robbie!