Disclaimer - I'm not a
doctor, and neither are many of the people selling the jet
lag remedies listed in this article! Do your own research,
consult your own doctor, and be prudent in what you do.
first article in this series discussed what jet lag is and
strategies to minimize its impact on your travels.
This week we
talk about ways to 'cure' jet lag. Like it or not, jet lag
affects us all and detracts from our business efficiency if
traveling for business, and our personal pleasure if traveling
for fun. Anything sensibly appropriate to minimize these
impacts is therefore a very good thing.
Many types of Cures are Offered
For some strange reason, the
affliction of jet lag has never enjoyed the same status as a
'serious' illness as have most other challenges to one's health
and wellbeing. Until recently there has been little formal
research into jet lag cures, and so a profusion of quackery and
unscientific 'cures' that have little apparent grounding in
medical science have appeared.
Some are strange, some are
silly, and some are just plain impractical.
offered to travelers range from a 'do it yourself'
acupressure kit, to a special
light enhancing visor that apparently helps your body
respond to the new daylight time and is sold as part of a
'combat kit' along with a pair of dark glasses for when you are
supposed to be avoiding light!
Other solutions range from
simplistic to an amazingly complex 'everything included' scheme
StopJetLag plan) that requires you to regulate your
(attempted) sleeping hours, your exposure to light and dark, the
type of food you eat and when you eat it, and supplement all
this with Melatonin and caffeine. Wow!
Many Cures are Impractical
(even if they do work)
Cures that require you to
exactly control when you are exposed to bright light (or when
you keep yourself away from light) may not fit in with your
sightseeing or business meeting plans.
Cures that require a
complicates series of alternating protein and carbohydrate meals
at exact times may not fit in with the food that you just plain
want to sample and enjoy while on vacation, or the food that is
served in business settings.
For most travelers, the best
type of cure is something that is very simple and easy, not
something that is complicated and bothersome.
A Scientific Basis for a Jet
With more and more people
traveling longer and longer distances, medical science is
finally starting to focus on a better understanding of what
exactly influences the body’s clock and how to speed its
adjustment to a new time zone.
It appears that the body’s
clock is influenced by the secretion of an amino-acid derivative
hormone, Melatonin. This is made by the pineal gland in response
to the lack of light. Stated simply, when it is dark, the pineal
gland makes Melatonin, and the rest of the body responds to the
Melatonin, saying, ‘ah – Melatonin. That means it must be time
to go to sleep.’ (If you'd like a more scientific description,
site is a good one to visit.)
interaction of light and melatonin is the key to a really
simple two part strategy to speeding up your body’s
adjustment to jet lag.
During the day, try and expose yourself to
as much sun as possible, so as to inhibit Melatonin
production that might otherwise occur.
In the evening, take a supplementary dose of
Melatonin before going to bed.
And so - the Melatonin Cure
Melatonin is freely
available in the US without prescription, due to it being a
It is recommended for adults
to take between 2mg and 5mg in the evening as a jet lag remedy
(vary your dosage between these limits depending on your weight
– the lighter you are, the less you need, the heavier you are,
the more you should take).
Note that Melatonin does not
eliminate jet lag, it merely reduces it and speeds up the rate
at which your body adjusts to the new time zone. Studies have
suggested that Melatonin doubles the speed at which your body
adjusts to the new time zone.
For that reason, take
Melatonin for half the number of days as time zones you crossed,
plus one. For example, if you travel six time zones, take
Melatonin for (6/2)+1=4 days, with maybe just a half dose on the
last day. Start taking the Melatonin from the day you arrive at
I can certainly say that, in
my own experience, and based on reports from others that also
use it, it is close to miraculous and really makes a
tremendous difference on the first few days of a journey (and on
the first few days after coming home again too). I used to dread
the first few days and nights of an international journey, and
now it is close to no bother at all.
It makes it easier for me to
sleep at night, and I feel more alert during the day.
Melatonin - a Dissenting View
Melatonin is not universally
acknowledged as being a guaranteed cure for jet lag, and neither
is it universally considered to be harmless and safe. For a
while in the mid 1990s there was a large group of 'experts'
proclaiming Melatonin as a 'wonder drug' that would prevent
aging, treat cancer, improve one's sex life, and also cure jet
lag, but this enthusiasm seems to have tapered off.
Melatonin may or may not
work for you. If you are taking other medicines, it might be
prudent to check with your doctor or pharmacist to ensure there
are no interactions between Melatonin and the other drugs.
However, all 'science' to
one side, I can truly report that Melatonin surely does work for
A Homeopathic Alternative?
I find I'm becoming
increasingly interested in homeopathic cures. This winter I've
successfully fought of a series of colds, coughs, and other
winter ailments by the use of an incredible homeopathic medicine
I bought in Russia out of desperation, due to not being able to
find any Coldrex or other recognizable cold medicines on sale!
To my surprise, this remedy banished every threatened onslaught
of winter time ills on an almost miraculous basis, and with no
side-effects at all. An amazing, unexpected (!) and very
gratifying experience. (The product is called Oscillococcinum
and actually comes from a French company with a name something
like 'Buaron Laboratories' and is reportedly available in the US
Without debating the
potential value of homeopathic cures, let me just record the
existence of a homeopathic anti-jet lag remedy that was
developed in, of all places, my own home country of New Zealand.
I’ve never tried this myself (I'm so pleased with Melatonin that
I don't feel the need to try anything else), but some people say
that it has worked for them. Going by the name of
No Jet Lag
it can be purchased at
Amazon for the minimal cost of $9.85 for a pack of 32 tablets, and
$9.25 when buying two or more. Buy two packs - if two of
you are traveling, you'll probably need both packs.
Scientists in Australia have
recently (July 02) developed a special device with glowing blue
and green lights, mounted on the frame of a pair of eyeglasses.
They say that the glasses should be worn for at least three
hours a day for two days prior to travel, and another three
hours during the long international flight. Little more is known
about this, and the device has not been made commercially
available to the traveling public - probably just as well!
One reader wrote in to
recommend Provigil - she said 'it is absolutely the best thing'.
She did not disclose her own experience or medical
qualifications, and did not provide anything further in support
of this comment. Intrigued - and slightly embarrassed at
not already knowing about this product, we researched Provigil,
this site providing some authoritative information.
From what we can gather, it
seems Provigil attacks the problem of jetlag from the other end
- instead of helping you sleep and adjust to the new time zone,
it helps you to stay awake and alert when you'd otherwise be
drowsy and nodding off. But this is not helping you to
adjust to the new time zone or reset your body clock at all, and
it is unclear how much of the chemically induced state of
alertness is real and how much is perception.
It seems to be a powerful
drug with potentially scary side-effects, including addiction,
and so we feel completely unable to recommend it at all, and
urge you to get formal medical advice before considering this
Yes, water! Drink lots of
water on any flight - a generous cup of water every hour would
be ideal. The dry atmosphere on a plane causes accelerated
dehydration, and one factor of jet lag is just the body's stress
response to drying out on the plane. Drink as much water as you
And, on the rare events that
you get a hot moist towel handed to you, do what I do.
Immediately start breathing through it - this brings wonderful
warm moist air into your lungs and helps rehydrate that part of
you as well.
Marilyn from Marilyn Can
Travel points out another advantage of drinking lots of water.
She points out that it will cause you to go to the bathroom more
regularly, and the forced exercise will reduce your risk of Deep
Vein Thrombosis at the same time! :)
She is actually doubly
correct. Extra water will stop your blood from thickening up, so
that gives double protection against DVT as well as reducing one
factor of jet lag.
There is a theory which suggests if you
don't eat food for 16 hours (and then presumably eat according
to your new time zone schedule) that might speed up your
But the theory doesn't
really say if you should starve yourself and then start with a
breakfast or a lunch or a dinner meal, making it of dubious help
at present. Probably it is another idea that is great in
theory but useless in practice.
Things that Slow Down your Time
Now for the bad news. Three
things that don’t help jet lag, and which may actually slow down
the body’s adjusting process, are alcohol, caffeine and sleeping
Sleeping pills will put you
to sleep, but they don’t help restore the natural cycle of day
and night, but rather use a ‘brute force’ approach that often
leaves you feeling poorly rested when you wake up.
And both alcohol and
caffeine don’t help the body adjust to the new environment, but
rather are more likely to slow your adjusting down.
It's All in the Mind?
Finally, to close on an
amusing note about what is a definitely serious subject, here is
a very strange device – a ‘Jet
Lag watch’ that supposedly helps you to ‘psychologically
adjust’ to the new time zone.
Alas, the largest part of
jet lag is not psychological but rather physiological;
and so the watch is almost certainly close to useless. It might
make a great gag gift to give to 'the person that already has
everything' in your life, but give them a bottle of Melatonin as
People who say 'I don't
suffer jetlag' run the risk of self delusion in a manner similar
to that of a drunk person or a diver too deep with the wrong air
mixture, and may not realize that they are not acting as
intelligently as they normally could.
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17 May 2002, last update
21 Jul 2020
You may freely reproduce or distribute this article for noncommercial purposes as long as you give credit to me as original writer.