As people travel further around the world for business and pleasure more often it makes sense that jet lag is becoming a real problem, particularly in the US. When you have been working hard all year for a short holiday the last thing that you want is to be tired and run down for the first three days of it. There is a drug that is now available called melatonin that may help you challenge the exhausting effects of jet lag. This blog look at the latest information and research regarding jet lag and hopefully will provide you with some useful strategies to deal with this growing burden.
How does jet lag happen?
So we know that jet lag comes about as the result of long haul travel. This is because when you jump on a plane and fly across the world you are crossing different time zones. Your body has an internal clock known as your circadian rhythm and this usually will let you know when it is daytime and when it is dark and time for bed. We currently challenge this circadian clock by staying up late at night and then getting up early in the morning or by working shift work and long haul flights are no exception. When you travel across various time zones your body clock remains in the time that you were in when you left and usually takes a few days to adjust to the new time zone at your destination. Usually this presents with you feeling wide awake in the middle of the night and really tired during the daytime. The circadian clock is run by its own personal battery and in the case of the body is a chemical called melatonin. This chemical is responsible for telling you when it is time to sleep and so when it is dark more and more of this chemical builds up in your brain. The more time zones that you cross the worse the jet lag usually is and as a rule traveling east usually causes wore problems than traveling west.
How will I know that I have jet lag?
Oh you will certainly know when you have jet lag, most people feel extremely tired and all they want to do is go to sleep. But the problem is that many people cannot get to sleep and may even have significant problems concentrating. Other things that people find difficult is eating and many complain of having an upset stomach or just say that they feel pretty unwell.
Are there any treatments?
Well the first thing to note is that you can just put up with it and eventually it will go away, this usually take about two to three days. But there are medicines that can help you with this problem or there are certain things that many people believe help you such as avoiding alcohol, tea and coffee. Also there seems to be some merit in staying awake until it gets dark instead of going to bed as soon as you get to your location (this is the case when you are traveling west). When traveling east you should wake up when it gets light in the morning instead of drawing your curtains and sleeping the day away. Remember that dark increases your level of melatonin and light decreases the level. Some people say that exercise when you reach your destination will help you out (just think of how awake you feel after a run in the morning at home). If you want to take some melatonin to help with the jet lag then you should visit your pharmacy before you go as it is available over the counter. You can take this just before you go to bed and this will help you drift off into a nice deep sleep and trick your brain into thinking it has gone to bed at the normal time. Melatonin is most effective if you take it around 11pm at your destination time and you should start this treatment the day before you set off. Likewise you can also start this treatment on the plane or even the night that you arrive at your destination. You should continue the melatonin for a few days. Unfortunately in the US melatonin is sold as a supplement and not as a medicine and because of this is may not be regulated in the same way and you may find that the doses differ between brands. With this in mind it is a good idea to talk to your pharmacist about good brands and seeking out which one they prefer. As melatonin is a drug it can make you feel sick, confused, dizzy and can cause headaches.
Melatonin should not be taken if you have epilepsy or if you are on warfarin and it may actually pay to visit your doctor and ask them if melatonin is right for you.
Another form of medicine that might help you with jet lag is sleeping tablets. Now taking these before bed on the first few nights that you arrive have been shown to help with jet lag. Certain kinds are better than others and some that are recommended are zolpidem and zopiclone. It is important to note that these medicines are addictive and as such you should only use these for a few nights. Remember that these also have side effects including diarrhea, runny nose and headache and in some people the side effects are worse than the jet lag in the first place. You could take melatonin and sleeping tablets for added effect but you should note that this would increase the number of side effects that you may experience.
Jet lag is a horrible experience and one that we are forced to pay for when we take our vacation overseas. Fortunately whether you choose to treat the jet lag or not, we know that it will only last for a few days and is a much better condition to have then some of the others out there.