When you travel long distances on an airplane, it is common to struggle with adjusting your body’s circadian rhythm to the new time zone. Most travelers commonly refer to that phenomenon as jet lag. In this article, I will introduce you to AYO, an exciting new gadget that promises to help you overcome jet lag much quicker. Over the past weeks, I had the opportunity to try out AYO during trips to Europe and the US west coast, and I am excited to share my findings. Additionally, I will share with you other tips and remedies that have helped me during my many trips to Europe and Asia over the past years.
The best strategy to prevent or reduce jet lag is to stay active and to expose yourself to natural light when you land at your destination. It is equally important to avoid light at specific times, to help your body wind down and release sleep-inducing hormones, such as melatonin. Unfortunately, you may not always have access to natural light when you need it. That’s where AYO, an innovative wearable that emits blue light can help. AYO lets you know when you need to avoid or seek light. If no natural light is available, AYO delivers it. The result is reduced jet lag, more energy, and better sleep patterns.
Reviewed Brands & Products
|AYO Blue-light wearable|
Why do you feel jet lag?
Your body has an internal 24-hour clock, which is known as the circadian rhythm. A part of your brain, the so-called hypothalamus controls your body’s recurring sleep/wake cycle. Changing that cycle is a slow process and usually, occurs over days. As a result, when you travel long distances and thus rapidly change timezones, your body doesn’t immediately adjust, and you feel jet lag.
Like most people, I feel more jet lagged going east. Direct flights from the US east coast to Europe usually leave in the late afternoon and arrive in the morning, which is the middle of the night on the east coast. And because your body is used to sleeping at that time, it is difficult to resist just taking a nap.
The longer the day goes on, the more I wake up, and when it’s finally bedtime in Europe, I’m wide awake and can’t sleep until 2-3 am. The result is a very short night because I often have to get up early the next day.
Pre-travel tip: Take a later flight
When traveling with family, we usually pick a direct flight because it is less of a hassle. When I travel alone, I often take a later flight, leaving Atlanta between 8-10 pm, arriving in Europe around noon. These later flights usually require a connection, but they make it a little easier to adjust because they often arrive at a time when I would be getting up at home anyway. That way, the day is much shorter, and I can rest sooner.
In-flight tips for eastbound flights
When I travel alone from the US east coast to Europe, I do anything I can to get some shut-eye. That usually means, using earplugs, or noise-canceling headphones and wearing a sleeping mask.
It’s important to reduce your exposure to light, to keep your brain thinking it is time to wind down. I also try to stay hydrated as much as possible. That’s especially important if you consume alcoholic beverages, which tend to dehydrate you.
Of course, when I travel with my family, sleep is usually out of the questions until a few hours into the flight, when the kids have nodded off. If your kids don’t sleep at all, it is even more important to take the right steps as soon as you land.
I used to take sleeping aids, both during the flight and on the ground, but using the tips in this article, I could stop using pills over a year ago.
DOs and DONTs when you land
The three most important things you should do as soon as you land are:
- Expose yourself to natural light, if possible,
- Stay active and move around,
On the flip side, the worst things you can do are:
- Stay inside, without exposure to natural light,
- Sit around, or even worse, take a nap,
- Get dehydrated.
Whatever you do, do not take a nap! I know how tempting it is sometimes and I have done it. Trust me; it never turned out good!
The way back is usually less problematic for me. If I can, I take a nap as soon as the plane has taken off and then stay up for the remainder of the flight. Again, if I travel accompanied by kids, I usually don’t sleep at all on westbound flights.
In-flight tips for westbound flights
Besides trying to take a nap for the first few hours of the flight, I usually end up working, blogging or watching movies. The most important thing you can do is trying to stay hydrated. So grab a cup of water anytime a flight attendant offers it, or ask for one if they don’t.
DOs and DONTs when you land
Most flights from Europe arrive on the east coast in the afternoon. Same as with going east, I try to stay active and exposed to natural light as much as I can. It is tempting calling it a night early, but I always try to stick to my usual bedtime of 9 pm.
The same is true when I fly to the west coast unless my trip lasts three days or less. If that is the case, I try to stick to east coast time as much as possible.
AYO – Your secret weapon against jet lag
While you can often control how active you are when you land at your destination, the availability of natural light is typically not under your control. So what do you do when you land, and it is cloudy. Or if you have to sit in an office all day?
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That’s where AYO can help! AYO is your secret weapon against jet lag for when no or only limited natural light is available.
AYO is a light-based, beautifully designed wearable, which is fully controlled and operated by the AYO app. Short exposure to the gentle AYO blue light enhances energy levels and alertness as well as helps optimize your body rhythm according to your lifestyle and preferences. AYO has been created with the main focus on attractive and portable design, smart capabilities, and unique user experience!
I learned about AYO on Indiegogo earlier this year, before it was publicly available. I reached out to Novalogy, the creators of AYO and asked for a review unit. Thankfully, Novalogy accommodated my request and enabled me to test AYO over the past few months.
How does AYO work?
AYO is a futuristic-looking, battery-powered wearable that emits blue light via LEDs. Studies have shown that exposing yourself or avoiding light can impact how jet lagged you feel. Other studies have demonstrated a positive effect of blue light on the human body regarding melatonin release, alertness, thermoregulation, and heart rate.
More links to studies are available on AYO’s science page.
You can program AYO, or turn it on/off ad-hoc via a mobile app that is available for both iOS and Android.
AYO benefits and programs
AYO features three distinct programs:
- Sleep: The sleep program helps you change your sleeping pattern.
Every morning waking up should feel great! You can forget about snoozing your alarm clock. AYO allows you to set up your “biological alarm” so your body can be better charged and ready to welcome the new day. Wake up easier or stay later in the evening – with AYO you will experience newfound energy. Set your desired wake up and sleep times and AYO will do the rest to get your body clock back in shape again!
- Travel: Adapt to a new time zone.
Give yourself extra energy on those grueling long-distance trips. Healthy body rhythm may help you alleviate jet lag during long-haul travels. For each travel, AYO provides you with an easy-to-use schedule when to use AYO and when to avoid light to help you optimize your body rhythm as well as enhance energy and alertness levels at your new destination. AYO can help make international travel less stressful and more productive!
- Energy: Boost your energy levels.
AYO can boost your energy levels and help you become more active. By providing you with its unique blue light, similar to the one that occurs on sunny summer days, AYO allows you to feel more energetic whenever you need it.
I focused my review solely on the travel and energy programs because I already have a strict sleeping routine and usually wake up refreshed.
My experience with AYO
I tested AYO on two recent trips to Austria (Europe) and Las Vegas, NV. In fact, I had to make these two trips back-to-back, with only a weekend in-between them. Based on experience, I knew that jet lag would be a challenge and so I was looking forward to finding out how much AYO could help.
The wearable (hardware)
AYO comes in a hard-plastic case that doubles as a charger and feels like it’s made of high-quality components. The case/charger combination means that anytime you put AYO back into its case, it gets charged. One side of the case sports a micro-USB port and four LEDs that act as a charging indicator.
When you plug in the charging cable, the LEDs briefly light up to indicate the charging progress. Unfortunately, the LEDs don’t stay lit, so you don’t see the progress until you gently tap the case. A tap makes the LEDs light up briefly again. It’s not a big deal, but I wished the LEDs stayed on permanently while the case was charging.
The mobile app (software)
Since the wearable doesn’t have any buttons or controls, just a charging port, you have to use the companion app to control AYO. Before you can use the app, you have to pair AYO to your mobile phone via Bluetooth. Once done, you can customize your profile and preferences, start “treatment” programs or set up schedules.
You will also have to create an online account. The whole process took only a few minutes and was straightforward.
Once completed, the first thing I did was to set up a travel program for my trip to Munich. You can choose between a one-way trip or one that includes a return flight. I chose the latter, and the app asked me for the following information:
- Origin and destination airport
- Date and time the trip starts/end
On the first screen, I entered ATL as the origin airport and MUC as the destination. On the return flight screen, I noticed that the airport fields were already pre-populated, but unfortunately, in the wrong order. The origin airport was still set to ATL, and the destination was set to MUC. So I deleted the text from both fields and entered the correct airports.
After clicking OK on the final screen, the AYO app calculated a schedule with recommendations on when to avoid and when to expose yourself to light. Depending on the time of day, light could be from the sun or AYO.
AYO’s schedule vs. My schedule
The schedule AYO created for me was based on my travel schedule, my sleep patterns as I defined them in the mobile app and the science behind the circadian rhythm of the human body.
So I would have benefited most from AYO by strictly following AYO’s schedule. To help me with sticking to the schedule, AYO created a separate calendar in my iCloud account and added all important milestones to it. As a result, AYO reminded me when it was time to avoid or to seek light.
Despite all that, I had a hard time sticking to the schedule because I wasn’t always in control it. There were too many influencing factors, like kids, friends, or family that I had to factor into my schedule.
My solution – I wore AYO on-demand
As a result, I quickly abandoned the preset schedule and instead, used AYO ad-hoc when I felt tired via the Energy program. After we arrived in Europe and boarded the train from Munich to Salzburg, I felt like I was about to nod off. So I put on AYO and wore it for 40 minutes while my wife enjoyed her beauty sleep. I wish I could post the picture I took of her sleeping, but she would kill me if I did.
For the following days, I wore AYO every morning for 30 minutes after waking up. That helped me tremendously to get started and to feel more energetic. I usually have a hard time getting up in the morning when traveling to Europe because it is the middle of the night on the US east coast. AYO helped me to get into the groove and adapt to the new time zone much quicker.
Right after our family vacation in Europe, I had to fly to Las Vegas, NV for a trade show. As a result, I had to manage a 9-hour time difference between Europe and the US west coast. I started feeling sleepy at 3 pm Las Vegas time but couldn’t possibly go to bed. So during my breaks in the afternoon, I went back to my room to wear AYO for half an hour. AYO was a life saver because I had no exposure to natural light during that whole trip.
Overall, AYO has been working incredibly well for me. But there are a few things that I would improve to make AYO even easier to use.
Automatic trip detection (software)
AYO could automatically detect when I am at an airport and could ask me where I am traveling to. Or it could detect if I have changed timezones or traveled a long distance. By doing that, AYO could automatically send me notifications and remind me when I should avoid or seek light. Or it could look for flight information in my calendar and set up a schedule with only minimal input from me.
Push notifications (software)
In addition to adding events for avoiding or seeking light to my calendar, I would also benefit from push notifications that I could snooze or dismiss. Especially when I am on vacation, I tend to pay less attention to my calendar and thus often miss calendar notifications.
Improved trip scheduling (software)
Setting up a trip that includes a return flight is a bit confusing. AYO doesn’t tell you if the times you have to enter are based on the current time zone or that of the destination. Plus, the departure and destination airport fields are incorrectly populated for the return flight. Note: I could confirm that you have to enter all times as they appear on your ticket or reservation.
Better charging indicator (hardware)
While charging the case, I would appreciate if the charging indicator LEDs stayed on until the wearable was fully charged. That way, I could just glance at the case and tell if it has completed charging or not.
Proven tips on how to overcome jet lag quicker
Overcoming jet lag is all about exposure to light, physical activity and avoiding sleep at certain times. Your best bet is to stay active and under the sun. Unfortunately, that’s not always possible, and that’s where AYO can help. AYO has helped me to reduce jet lag and has thus earned a permanent spot in my travel bag!