Timeshifter - 2019 Health Tech & You Finalist 2019

29 July 2019

Innovator looks to eliminate jet lag in business and leisure travel

Jet lag can be an uncomfortable experience for some – whether it’s a holiday or a work trip, travelling can leave people with headaches, nausea, lethargy amongst other symptoms, because of disruption to the circadian rhythm, also known as the body clock.

The condition doesn’t just make for an unpleasant start to a holiday; it can also have an impact on business travellers, with people performing at about 61% of their normal level of productivity when experiencing jet lag[1].

However, using the latest research in sleep and circadian neuroscience, Danish entrepreneur and CEO of Timeshifter Mickey Beyer-Clausen is addressing the underlying causes of jet lag through the Timeshifter app. We spoke to Mickey about the driving force behind the development of this technology and how it could change the way we approach travel.

Shifting the circadian clock

Light is the most important time cue for resetting your circadian clock and managing when you see and avoid light is critical to adapting to new time zones quickly. The right light exposure at the right time can accelerate your adaptation and seeing light at the wrong time will make your jet lag worse[2].

“I was lucky a few years ago to meet Dr Steven Lockley from Harvard Medical School and Dr Smith Johnston from NASA, who had applied this science on astronauts as they travelled around the world for training,” says Mickey.

“They had worked together on plans to help people adapt to new time zones, which is a combination of timed light exposure, caffeine consumption, sleep and napping and optional use of melatonin supplement. However, they wanted to bring this to every traveller which is where we began.”

Mickey, Dr Lockley and two other co-founders Tony Hanna and Jacob Ravn began the development of the Timeshifter app, which initially launched in Summer 2018 and since then has had 100,000 downloads.

Using the app

Users can create a personalised jet lag plan by opening the app and inputting their travel itinerary as soon as they can, and then telling the app their usual sleep pattern and chronotype (whether you are an early bird or night owl).

The app will then tell you when you need to see light and avoid light, use and avoid caffeine and when to go to sleep. Timeshifter will also ask for your return trip, so you know when to start making adjustments before you begin your journey home.

“Even if you have shifted your circadian clock to a new time zone, you might still experience some fatigue due to insufficient sleep during travel. There are a couple of ways you can boost your energy level if you feel fatigued.

“Consuming caffeine can help you to stay awake when you need to see light and power napping can be an additional tool to help maintain high levels of alertness and performance, but they need to be scheduled at the right time,” says Mickey.

Being an AXA Health Tech & You Awards finalist

When asked how they felt to be chosen as a finalist of the AXA Health Tech & You Sleep Tech Challenge, Mickey said: “It was an honour to be selected as a finalist for such a prestigious award. Jet lag is a persistent problem that impacts the performance, enjoyment, health and safety of every traveller.

“By selecting Timeshifter as a finalist, AXA is highlighting the importance of the circadian rhythm in our lives, and the implications it has on performance, enjoyment and health. We are very pleased to be recognised as the leader in turning the latest research in sleep and circadian neuroscience into a jet lag solution everyone can afford and use.”

The Sleep Tech Challenge Category was looking for affordable solutions that are proven to change sleep behaviour and deliver better sleeping patterns in everyday life.

[1] KAYAK Blog UK. (2016). Jet lag: costing Brits 65m days of holiday a year - KAYAK Blog UK. [online] Available at: https://www.kayak.co.uk/news/jet-lag-costs-brits/ [Accessed 17 Jun. 2019].

[2] Eastman, C. and Burgess, H. (2009). How to Travel the World Without Jet Lag. Sleep Medicine Clinics, 4(2), pp.241-255.