The Best Cures for Jet Lag

Travel Tips — By Carlo Alcos on May 28, 2010 at 7:00 am

It’s nothing ground-breaking, and you probably already knew it, but now it’s official.

As reported in Google News, Oregon researcher, Dr. Robert Sack, recently published the three most effective strategies for dealing with jet lag in the New England Journal of Medicine:

  1. Take the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin, time your exposure to bright light, or both.
  2. Adjust your sleep schedule. Take naps.
  3. Use medications or caffeine to fall asleep or stay awake.

Melatonin is the most extensively studied jet lag treatment according to Sack. Based on many double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, his findings are that it helps symptoms. “Its effect is based in good science,” he says. He further states that although the USDA has not evaluated melatonin, no adverse reactions have been reported. No prescription is necessary to purchase the hormone supplement.

Dr. Clayton Cowl, chief of aerospace medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, says that because everyone is affected differently it’s difficult to pin down a one-stop-solution for jet lag. “Unfortunately, there’s not just one straight recommendation: Take these two pills and you’ll be fine,” he said.

The Travel Insider agrees with the recommendation for melatonin and explains why it works in a bit more detail: when it’s dark, a gland secretes natural melatonin that tells your body it’s time to sleep. Their suggestion is to expose yourself to daylight as much as possible so as to inhibit the naturally-occurring melatonin, then take a dose of the supplement before you go to bed at night.

eHow has a few more suggestions in battling jet lag, including eating a protein-packed breakfast (like an omelette) if you’re arriving in the daytime to help keep you awake, or, alternatively, eating a carb-heavy dinner if you’re arriving at night, as this will help make you groggy.

While shares similar advice as the rest, they additionally recommend preparing up to a week in advance of your flight. Using noise-canceling headphones to block out noise (if sleeping in the daytime) and/or special visors designed to expose the retinas to light (if trying to stay awake at night), you can adjust your sleep patterns to your destination’s time zone.

[Image: zanthrax-dot-nl / Flickr]

Tags: flying, jet lag, melatonin, sleep

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