Supplementing with melatonin can prevent jet lag!
Don’t you hate the workout days you lose because you feel out of synch (i.e. jet lagged) when you’ve been flying long distance? Jet lag is caused by a difference between a person’s circadian rhythm (your inner clock telling you when sleep/wake up) and the new day/night cycle at the new destination.
Why do we feel tired?
What causes you to feel tired when the sun falls? As darkness increases, photoreceptors in the eye are stimulated to form melanopsin which in turn signals a gland in the brain called the pineal gland to synthesize and secrete the hormone melatonin into the blood stream.
Melatonin can actually be prescribed as a medication to improve sleep quality. A Cochrane systematic review of 10 randomized trials comparing oral melatonin to placebo or other oral medication on the effectiveness on jet lag prevention, found that eight of them showed positive results. The conclusion of the report is that supplementing with melatonin will work for reducing jet lag and that occasional short- term use seems to be safe for otherwise healthy adults.
Take home message
Adults flying across five or more time zones (especially if flying east as the jet lag gets worse as compared to flying west) could try to take 0.5mg-5mg of melatonin for a couple of evenings after landing, reducing symptoms of jet lag. For example, when flying from the US to Europe or from Europe to Asia. Take the first dose on the plane at the new destination’s bedtime. This way, you can get to the gym quicker in your new destination!
Article by Jonas Liefke, 4th year Medical Student with a Bachelor´s degree in Physiotherapy.
1. Herxheimer A. Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag.
Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2002, Issue 2.
2. Lionel H. Melatonin has multiorgan effects. European Heart Journal – Cardiovascular Pharmacotherapy (2016) 2, 258–265