Can Melatonin Help Against Jet Lag

Melatonin is a hormone that derives from the neurotransmitter serotonin and is produced by the pineal gland, a small gland in the center of the brain.

­Biologists don’t know exactly how melatonin works, except that it’s a very important timekeeper of circadian rhythms, which regulate hormone secretion. The body secretes certain hormones at certain times of the day, and melatonin seems to regulate this. As such, melatonin controls periods of sleepiness and wakefulness. Melatonin production is stimulated by periods of darkness and suppressed by periods of light.

Supplemental melatonin has been show to be helpful for helping people fall asleep and remain asleep, even if they don’t particularly suffer from insomnia. However, this works only if the melatonin levels are already low. Therefore it seems not to work just before the person would go to bed normally, as melatonin levels rise naturally just before bedtime.

Jet lag is a condition where the body’s circadian rhythms are disrupted when people fly for long distances and over different time zones from east to west or west to east. Traveling from west to east seems to make the symptoms of jet lag worse. The symptoms of jet lag include insomnia, tiredness during the day, inability to concentrate, constipation or diarrhea and a worsening of menstrual problems. It doesn’t affect people who fly north to south or south to north, because time zones generally aren’t crossed. Because of melatonin’s role in circadian rhythms, doctors recommend that their patients take three to five milligrams of melatonin before they get on a plane. The melatonin shouldn't be taken at their usual bedtime, but at the time they’d be going to bed at their destination. After they've arrived, doctors then recommend that the patient take melatonin a few hours before going to bed for a few days.

Even as they use melatonin to combat jet lag, doctors also recommend that the traveler maintain a healthy sleep routine. They should go to bed earlier than usual before they get on a plane that’s headed east, and later than usual if they’re headed west. They should also try not to give in to sleepiness that comes outside of their usual schedule, drink plenty of fluids with the exception of alcohol and caffeinated drinks, and, if they’re due for a meeting at their destination, to schedule their flight considerably earlier than the time of the meeting so they can remain alert.­

Please bear in mind: Allways ask your doctor before you get any medicine (like melatonin).


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