Melatonin is a hormone naturally produced by the body to help regulate the body clock. Researchers believe that synthetic melatonin may be useful in treating jet lag, a range of symptoms that occur when one disrupts the body clock by traveling across time zones. The possible benefits of using melatonin for jet lag include reducing fatigue, improving concentration, and increasing physical coordination. Some research also suggests that taking melatonin for jet lag may help travelers fall asleep. In order to be effective against jet lag, it is generally suggested that melatonin be taken at night.
Every person has an internal clock which sends signals to the body throughout the day, instructing it to be alert or to become sleepy at appropriate times. One of the factors that makes this body clock “tick” is melatonin, a hormone released by the brain’s pineal gland at night that instructs the body to become sleepy. Researchers have managed to produce a synthetic version of melatonin, which can be purchased in many countries without a prescription. It is believed that there may be certain benefits to taking melatonin for jet lag.
Most individuals who have flown across two or more time zones are familiar with jet lag, a condition that occurs when long-distance travel causes the body’s internal clock to be thrown out of sync. Jet lag can cause a range of symptoms like fatigue, difficulty falling asleep, mental “fogginess,” reduced physical coordination, and in some cases upset stomach. While jet lag tends to diminish after a traveler has been in his new destination for several days, in the meantime, taking synthetic melatonin may reduce some of its symptoms.
Research has shown that taking synthetic melatonin when traveling may help reset the body clock to the local time in one’s destination. Specifically, the benefits of taking melatonin for jet lag can include diminishing daytime fatigue, bolstering concentration, and reducing jet lag-related clumsiness. Melatonin may also make it easier for travelers to fall asleep at night, although some medical experts argue that more evidence is needed to prove this effect.
In general, doctors recommend that for synthetic melatonin to help reset the body clock, it should be taken in the evenings for the first few days of travel. As jet lag is often more severe when traveling from west to east than vice versa, those crossing several time zones in an eastward direction may find it helpful to begin taking melatonin at night two or three days before their trip. Those who are pregnant, mentally ill, suffer from epilepsy, or are taking blood thinners should consult a physician before taking melatonin.