Jet lag is caused by flying in an airplane and crossing one
or more time zones, which can disrupt the body's sleep and wake cycle (circadian rhythms). Jet travel across time zones may
make it difficult for you to fall asleep, stay asleep, or stay awake during the
The effects of jet lag usually are greater if you are going
from west to east than from east to west.
The symptoms of jet lag
may take one to several days to go away.
When you fly east, the number of days it takes
to recover from jet lag will be about two-thirds the number of time zones you
cross. For example, if you cross six time zones, it will take you about 4 days
to get back to normal.
When you fly west, the number of days to
recover equals about half the number of time zones. So if you cross six time
zones, it will take you 3 days to recover.
Melatonin is a hormone the body makes that regulates
the cycle of sleeping and waking. Taking melatonin may help "reset" your sleep
and wake cycle. Some studies show that using it reduces how much jet lag people
report on both eastward and westward flights.1 But
other studies have not shown a benefit.2
You can try taking melatonin to reduce the symptoms of jet lag.
Suggestions about times and dosages vary among researchers who have studied
melatonin. Recommendations include:
Taking melatonin after dark the day you travel
and after dark for a few days after arriving at your destination.
Taking melatonin in the evening a few days before
you fly if flying eastward.
The long-term side effects of melatonin have not been well
studied. If you have
epilepsy or are taking
blood thinners such as coumadin (Warfarin), talk to
your doctor before using melatonin.
There are other things you can
do to decrease the effects of jet lag. Be rested before your flight, and try to
walk around during the flight so that you are not confined to cramped spaces
for long periods of time. Drink lots of water, because the air in jets tends to
Vitamins and herbal remedies that can be bought
without a prescription can also be tried to help reduce jet lag.
Herxheimer A (2008). Jet lag, search date June 2008. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.
Reichert RG (2013). Melatonin. In JE Pizzorno, MT Murray, eds., Textbook of Natural Medicine, 4th ed., pp. 857–867. St. Louis: Mosby.
How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.