Jet Lag - Melatonin

Have you taken melatonin supplements to prevent jet lag? How does it help?

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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

  • diphenhydramine (Sominex, Nytol) and
  • doxylamine (Unisom).

Prescription sleep medications include the following:

  • Short-acting sedative-hypnotics (non-benzodiazepines): zolpidem (Ambien, ZolpiMist), zaleplon (Sonata), and eszopiclone (Lunesta)
  • Melatonin receptor agonists: ramelteon (Rozerem)
  • Benzodiazepines (tranquilizers): flurazepam (Dalmane), temazepam (Restoril), and estazolam (ProSom)
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