Jet Lag

  • Medical Author:
    John P. Cunha, DO, FACOEP

    John P. Cunha, DO, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Cunha's educational background includes a BS in Biology from Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, and a DO from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences in Kansas City, MO. He completed residency training in Emergency Medicine at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center in Newark, New Jersey.

  • Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD

    Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.

Causes of Fatigue Slideshow Pictures

What is the treatment for jet lag?

The best way to treat jet lag is to take measures to prevent it. But you may still feel jet lagged when traveling across many time zones, even with some preventive measures. Treatment to cure jet lag involves some of the home remedies discussed.

When you arrive at your destination, try to adapt to the local schedule as soon as possible. For example, if you arrive at 6 p.m. local time (but noon your time), eat dinner, not lunch. If your normal bedtime at home is 11 p.m., go to bed at 11 p.m. local time (even if it's only 5 p.m. at home). Get as much exposure to sunshine during the day as possible to help reset your internal body clock.

Once you arrive at your destination, a small dose of caffeine, such as from your morning coffee, may help jolt you awake for a few hours. Caffeine is best reserved for the early part of the day because it can keep you awake at night if taken too late.

Are there effective medications for jet lag? What is the role of melatonin in jet lag?

There are no specific medications for jet lag, only medications that may help you get to sleep more easily when you reach your destination, or that remedy some symptoms of jet lag.

Melatonin is a hormone that plays a key role in body rhythms and jet lag. After the sun sets, the eyes perceive darkness and alert the hypothalamus to begin releasing melatonin, which promotes sleep. Conversely, when the eyes perceive sunlight, they tell the hypothalamus to withhold melatonin production. However, the hypothalamus cannot readjust its schedule instantly; it takes several days.

A dose of melatonin that is between 0.3 mg-5 mg may be taken on the first day you travel at the time you go to sleep at your destination, and for a few days, if needed. Melatonin seems to be most effective when crossing five or more time zones, or traveling east. Melatonin should only be taken by adults. Do not drink alcohol when taking melatonin. Consult a doctor if you plan on taking melatonin.

Prescription or over-the-counter (OTC) sleeping pills may help you reset your body clock to the time at your destination. Try not to use them if possible, but if your doctor has prescribed sleep medication, it may be taken if needed for up to two or three nights. Try not to take it for longer, as these medications can be habit-forming.

OTC sleep aids include

Prescription sleep medications include the following:

REFERENCES:

Breus, Michael J. "How Long Does Jet Lag Last?" WebMD.com. Dec. 14, 2010. <http://answers.webmd.com/answers/1195390/How-long-does-jet-lag-last>.

Cirelli, Chiara. "Definition and Consequences of Sleep Deprivation." UpToDate.com. Feb. 12, 2015. <http://www.uptodate.com/contents/definition-and-consequences-of-sleep-deprivation?source=search_result&search=jet+lag+stroke&selectedTitle=1~150>.

Herxheimer, Andrew. "Jet Lag." UpToDate.com. Apr. 16, 2014. <http://www.uptodate.com/contents/jet-lag>.

"Melatonin and Sleep." National Sleep Foundation. <http://www.sleepfoundation.org/article/sleep-topics/melatonin-and-sleep>.

"Sleep and Circadian Rhythm Disorders." WebMD.com. Mar. 3, 2010. <http://www.webmd.com/sleep-disorders/guide/circadian-rhythm-disorders-cause>.

Tuttle, Troy, Asif Ali, David Filsoof, and John Higgins. "High Altitude, Air Travel, and Heart Disease." UpToDate.com. Oct. 22, 2014. <http://www.uptodate.com/contents/high-altitude-air-travel-and-heart-disease?source=search_result&search=jet+lag+heart+attack&selectedTitle=1~150>.

United States. National Institute of General Medical Sciences. "Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet." July 2008. <http://www.nigms.nih.gov/Education/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.htm>.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 6/6/2016

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