Jet lag — why suffer?

UX research case study: Long distance travel and jet lag management

Geraldine Wastell
9 min readMar 2


Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash


When thinking about issues we face whilst travelling, jet lag is often one which we take for granted. But, what else can we do to mitigate jet lag in order to get the most out of our trips? Too often I have suffered terribly with headaches, poor concentration, sleep deprivation when travelling long distances for work and pleasure. The impact of jet lag on the quality of trips can often be profound, yet there are proven tactics to mitigate this impact available. So, why aren’t more people getting more out of those big trips across the world? And how can we help to improve that?

Research Goals

  • To understand the main issues encountered by long distance flyers due to jet lag
  • What methods they use currently to mitigate the impact of jet lag on their travels, and how well these methods are fulfilling their objectives
  • I want to understand the main pain points with current solutions, as this will help feed into a solution tailored directly to those needs
  • Also, by understanding how well equipped people feel to mitigate jet lag, I want to uncover how empowered people feel to address this problem which is often taken for granted — to understand how to overcome this potential obstacle

QUESTION: Do you have a good, reliable strategy in place to deal with jet lag? When does it fail, and why?

Photo by Megan te Boekhorst on Unsplash


This study will engage a mixed methods approach; combining both quants (survey) and quals (semi-structured interviews) methods, alongside desk research to understand the current market.


A survey will quickly give us a larger sample of data from which we can understand the breadth of the problems people encounter with jet lag. I used typeform to create my survey, because I think the design is very personable and also you are able to collect results directly in Google Sheets.

Typeform survey

Semi-structured interviews (via Zoom) will allow us to informally dig deeper into the jet lag experience and gather the details of why those experiences were either better or worse.

Desk research will also allow us to quickly gain an understanding of the current market of solutions through social listening, competitor research and SWOT analysis.

*Please find linked below the overview of this desk research

Jet lag UXR — Competitor Analysis


Age: 18+

Gender: All

Behaviour: Have travelled long distance flight (across at least 2 time zones) at least once

Number: Aim for 100+

To put it simply — adults who have travelled long distance for work or pleasure at least once in their lives. As we aim to understand the experience in general, there is no need to apply demographic restraints.

Ideally, participants would have been exposed to jet lag on a fairly regular basis, as the study aims to research new ways to help people deal with jet lag. Therefore it makes sense to talk to the people who would most benefit from a solution. However, the sample at a minimum needs to reach long distance travellers who have either coped or did not cope well with jet lag — and understand how and why this occurred.

Survey design

I used the lean survey design canvas to plan out the structure of my survey. Planning out the linear progression of questions helped to ensure a few things:

  1. I had a clear screening question to avoid gathering ineligible data
  2. I could see how to set up the topic with an introduction and broader questions
  3. Then moved through to more specific, experiential questions as well as those which took the temperature of opinion

I deliberately chose not to ask any demographic information, as it was not relevant to the subject area at hand, and may have served more as a distraction than a useful data point.

Interview Structure

The structure of the interviews followed a similar path to the survey structure, except with a stronger emphasis on the why. This aimed to really dig into the experiential impacts of jet lag symptoms which could potentially be improved/solved better.

Overview of the structure as follows:

  1. Icebreaker — holiday chit-chat to put the participant at east
  2. Discussion of jet lag experiences and general impacts felt — emphasis on why?
  3. Discussion of treatments and weariness of treatments — emphasis on why?


Survey Results

I managed to gather data from 106 participants in total, which I felt was a considerable sample size. Most data was gathered through social media (Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp); so can be considered as through “word of mouth”. This may have skewed the sample slightly, but considering we are investigating the experience, rather than got-to-market strategy, neither gender or age were considered as strong impacting factors at this stage.

How big is the problem of jet lag?

Fig. 1

As you can see in fig 1 above, nearly 50% of participants felt that jet lag was “almost always” suffered when flying long haul, and 23% suffer every time.

Furthermore, when you dissect that data by intensity of symptons, those that suffer from jet lag often are also more likely to feel that symptoms are more severe (see fig 2).

Fig. 2

We can conclude from this that jet lag is a recurring factor for the majority of long distance travellers, and those who is experience it more often also experience it more profoundly.

How do travellers manage jet lag currently, and do their methods work?


We can see that actually a large group of participants (44%) had never actually tested any specific tactics in order to help with jet lag symptoms. The next highest being those that had taken general advice from others (22%). This could be an indicator of a low penetration of jet lag management tools in the current market.

Fig. 4

Of those that had tested jet lag management tools, melatonin tablets (14%) and general advice (17%) were shown to be the most effective. This highlights the importance of word of mouth advice in the successful management of jet lag. It is interesting to note that 7% of participants felt that “nothing ever works”; this also links to feelings of apathy that were detected during this study towards treating jet lag.

Of those that had used more sophisticated technology (jet lag apps and jet lag calculators), there are indicators of a limited level of success.

  • 50% of those who had tested a jet lag calculator listed it as a successful tool
  • In contrast, all of those who had tested sleep wellness apps in order to combat jet lag reported levels of success

This is an indicator of the power of technology to enhance the method, as most sleep wellness apps in the market offer very similar product to jet lag calculators but with an extra layer of support and service. Therefore this could be showing that refinement in the product can improve the output success rate. Further investigation would be needed on this topic to understand is veracity and reasoning.

What are the worst symptoms of jet lag?

Disrupted sleep patterns (difficulty sleeping and waking, low sleep quality, difficulty staying awake) and tiredness are considered with worst aspects of jet lag , accounting for ~72% of worst symptoms listed — and it is interesting that these were also the most cited aspects which caused the worst impacts in the interviews with participants. Those impacts listed were related to routine disruptions and productivity, with time pressures intensifying the impact of those routine disruptions.

Is there a cure for jet lag?

Typeform Survey

For those asked how strongly they agreed with the statement “There is a cure for jet lag.” the average score was 3.6 (1- strongly disagree — 10 strongly agree). This demonstrates a fairly strong skepticism towards the idea that jet lag can be eradicated completely; this was backed up within the interviews with many stating that jet lag was a “fact of life”. An interesting point to make when thinking about how we use the product to reinforce its results and viability.

Insight creation

I gathered all snippets of qualitative data from the Zoom interviews and surveys I conducted and place each “nugget” of information onto a post it note in Miro. I was sure to have a separate colour per participant to keep it clear visually where each data point came from, this helped to retain the context behind each statement.

Once this was complete, I began sorting the post-its into thematic groups; this helped me to find patterns that ran through the individual interviews. Next, I took time to sit back and think about how/if each grouping really related to the experience of jet lag management. This helped me to refine the grouping into themes that related directly to the user experience itself.

After I had refined the themes of the insights, I prioritised them into the following:

Main insights

Primary Archetypes

From the data gathered through both qualitative and quants methods, I was able to build the below primary archetypes that would be using (or potentially could be using) a solution for jet lag.

I developed these archetypes using the high priority insights created earlier.

Primary Archetypes

Seasoned Business Traveller — I believe that the focus for the seasoned business traveller was more on providing a solution that can fit into a busy schedule and be effective under strict time scale, in order to improve productivity within a high pressure trip.

Frustrated Adventure Seeker — It was evident from the study that that for those travelling for pleasure, the least knowledge of treatments existed and they had not previously tested many tactics to improve jet lag symptoms outside of traditional methods. So I felt that the most important features of the solution here needed to be that it is easy to follow for those new to this kind of thing. But also that you can track results, to prove to the skeptic that it is actually working.

Of course the above may appeal to both archetypes, but by humanising them into separate personas I was able to prioritise the kinds of solutions needed.

Recommendations/Next Steps

Based on the results of this study, I would recommend to build upon the jet lag app Timeshifter I discovered in my competitor analysis, with additional features outlined below for testing:

  • Improved Integration — e-Calendar integration would help ensure that any treatment plan can be visualised in line with existing schedules and therefore spot ahead of time any clashes or conflicts; this could also allow users to rearrange any important meetings to a time which is more suitable within the treatment plan
  • Improved Flexibility — Multiple levels of jet lag programs for the user to choose (e.g intense, average, relaxed) depending on the intensity of schedule and length of the trip; allowing the user to choose the rhythm of the solution
  • Improved Feedback — Ability to track the results of the treatment program (mood level, sleep hours, sleep quality), in order to see the results of the program in scientific stats. This would help the user to believe in the solution, if they can see it working themselves
  • Improved Instructions & Context — As well as providing push notifications to guide the user through the steps the treatment, the app can also offer a short explanation as to why the user should take this step. This would improve awareness in users of the science of sleep and potentially increase engagement
  • Improved Engagement and Sharing — It was also discovered in this study that most jet lag suffers had found solutions through general advice gathered through word of mouth. It could be useful in this case to create a social network area of the app, where users can share their tips and tricks.



Geraldine Wastell

I am a research & marketing professional with a passion for understanding the human story behind the data.