Melatonin for Jet Lag
Disclaimer: This content has been produced purely for informational and educational purposes only and is never intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical guidelines including diagnosis, advice, and treatment.
Melatonin is a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles in the body. The use of melatonin for jet lag is widely promoted by clinicians. When a person travels through multiple time zones, mainly three or more, his or her body’s internal clock gets a misalignment with the local destination time. This results in a disrupted sleep pattern that may cause fatigue and various associated symptoms, collectively known as jet lag. But does melatonin really help with jet lag? Let’s explore it together.
In this article, we’ll explore whether there is any benefit of using melatonin for jet lag and its associated symptoms according to scientific evidence. But before we get into how melatonin can help with jet lag, first, we’ll need to know the basics of jet lag a little bit more. So, let’s get started.
Table of contents
- What is jet lag?
- Symptoms of jet lag
- Causes of jet lag
- Complications of jet lag
- What is melatonin?
- Potential benefits of melatonin for jet lag
- How to use melatonin
- Precautions and side effects
- Final words
What is jet lag?
Jet lag is a sleep-wake disorder that arises when the body’s circadian rhythms, also known as the internal clock, get mismatched with the local day-night clock due to travel through multiple time zones.
In usual situations, the body’s internal clock is aligned with the local day-night 24-hour clock, promoting sleep at night and awakeness during the daytime. When a person travels through different time zones, he or she experiences different sunrises and sunsets that affect the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythms. Changes in circadian rhythms affect sleep-wake patterns as well as mental and physical health that show up in various symptoms.
Symptoms of jet lag
Jet lag affects both physical as well as mental health with a range of symptoms, such as:
- Sleeping issues at bedtime
- Problems with waking up and staying awake in the morning and during the daytime respectively
- Exhaustion, tiredness, or malaise
- Emotional difficulties such as affected moods
- Impaired thinking such as problems with memory and attention
- Sleep seizures or paralysis
- Stomach issues such as nausea, indigestion, and reduced appetite
Causes of jet lag
Jet lag mainly occurred due to flight travel that crosses several time zones quickly. The more time zones are covered, the more symptoms are likely to occur. Some additional factors may also be involved in the development of jet lag as well. The most common causes of jet lag include:
- A disruption to the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythms
- Airline atmosphere such as humidity
- Changes in airline cabin pressure, especially during high-altitude travel
- The effects of sunlight
- Insufficient intake of water or fluids
Complications of jet lag
Jet lag is a temporary condition that goes away in a couple of days, but drowsy driving or working with machinery may lead to serious accidents in people with jet lag.
What is melatonin?
Melatonin is a hormone that is secreted only in response to darkness in the brain by the pineal gland. This is the reason why it’s often called “the hormone of darkness”. The production of melatonin is regulated by the circadian rhythms of the body. It’s not a typical sleep hormone, but rather a time cue that tells the brain it’s nighttime and opens the sleep gate in day-active animals, including humans. It can also shift circadian rhythms or the body’s internal clock which in turn can help shift to new time zones faster.
Melatonin is also available in capsule or pill forms that are widely used to treat sleep problems in various conditions such as jet lag.
Potential benefits of melatonin for jet lag
The use of melatonin for jet lag as well as other sleep problems such as insomnia has been extensively studied and most of the findings have been positive. It can help with preventing the occurrence of jet lag as well as alleviating the symptoms even faster.
In a 2002 review investigating the effects of melatonin on the treatment and prevention of jet lag, researchers reviewed ten studies and concluded that melatonin is noticeably effective in reducing and preventing jet lag in people traveling through five or more time zones, especially in those who have had a jet lag in their previous journeys.
How to use melatonin
The exact dosage and duration of intake vary from person to person depending on the associated symptoms and personal health needs. Therefore, it’s essential to talk with a licensed naturopathic professional or healthcare provider for their recommendations prior to using it.
However, effective doses of melatonin for jet lag may range from 1 mg to 5 mg or higher per day. In general, melatonin is given 30 mins to two hours before bedtime according to the time zone of the destination.
Precautions and side effects
Though melatonin has been found usually safe and well-tolerable in recommended doses, some people may experience side effects such as nausea, headache, dizziness, and sleepiness. In rare cases, it may also cause anxiety, depression, low blood pressure, or changes in moods. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking melatonin and consult with a doctor.
Besides, people who have seizures, depression, and autoimmune disorders and who are on medications such as anticoagulants, immunosuppressants, anticonvulsants, and blood pressure medications should be extra cautious regarding melatonin intake. This is why it’s always best to seek the direct supervision of a licensed natural medicine practitioner prior to using melatonin for jet lag.
There are multiple pieces of evidence that showed that the use of melatonin for jet lag and its associated symptoms is remarkably effective. Melatonin has the potential to help prevent jet lag and reduce its symptoms faster. But it’s essential to seek the direct supervision of a licensed natural medicine practitioner or healthcare provider to determine the effective doses and safety profile before using melatonin.
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