Published on June 29, 2023

Melatonin & Jet Lag

Travelling the world and exploring new places is one of life’s great pleasures – that is, until you’re dealing with the realities of jet lag after a 10-hour red eye. So let’s get right down to it - what causes that dreaded condition called jet lag? And how can it be managed to help make travel and vacation even more enjoyable?

 Jet lag occurs when a person travels across different time zones, causing a disruption in their circadian rhythm, the body's internal clock that regulates sleep-wake cycles. The severity of jet lag varies depending on the direction of travel and the number of time zones crossed, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe[1].

 The primary cause of jet lag is the disruption of the body's internal clock, which is closely tied to the light-dark cycle[1]. When a person travels across multiple time zones, their body may not be able to adjust to the new time zone immediately[1]. This can lead to a mismatch between the person's circadian rhythm and the local time, resulting in symptoms which can include fatigue, difficulty sleeping or staying asleep, daytime sleepiness, irritability, difficulty concentrating, and digestive problems such as nausea, diarrhea, or constipation[1][2]. The severity and duration of symptoms can vary depending on factors such as age, overall health, and of course the number of time zones crossed[1].

 Melatonin is a hormone that plays a crucial role in regulating the body's circadian rhythm. It is naturally produced by the pineal gland in the brain in response to darkness and helps to promote sleep and regulate the sleep-wake cycle. Melatonin supplements are commonly used to help alleviate symptoms of jet lag, particularly for travelers who are crossing multiple time zones[2].

 Research has shown that melatonin can help to reduce the severity and duration of jet lag symptoms, particularly for travelers who are crossing multiple timezones[1][2]. Melatonin supplements are typically taken in the evening, a few hours before bedtime, in the new time zone. This helps to reset the body's internal clock and promote sleep at the appropriate time.

 It is important to note that melatonin supplements are not suitable for everyone. They should not be used by children, pregnant or breastfeeding women, or individuals with certain medical conditions, such as depression or autoimmune disorders. It is also important to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement, as they can interact with other medications or have potential side effects.

 In addition to melatonin, there are other strategies that can help to alleviate symptoms of jet lag. These may include getting plenty of rest before traveling, staying hydrated during the flight, avoiding alcohol and caffeine, and getting exposure to natural light in the new time zone as soon as possible.[3]
 Now that you know how to tackle jet lag, grab your passport – adventure is calling! Remember that while melatonin supplements can be a useful tool for alleviating jet lag, it’s important to speak with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.



[1] Choy M, Salbu RL. Jet lag: current and potential therapies. P T. 2011 Apr;36(4):221-31. PMID: 21572778; PMCID: PMC3086113.