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Dealing with jet lag
How to survive long-haul flights.
By MedJet

Each year, millions of travelers take long journeys over one or more continents. Traveling across multiple time zones produces myriad symptoms known as jet lag. We're all familiar with the feeling of fatigue upon arrival at our new destination, but just as problematic are a number of associated symptoms. These include reduced alertness, nighttime insomnia, depression and reduced cognitive skills, all which are closely affected by both the length and direction of travel. The most important jet lag symptoms are caused by disruptions to the body's sleep/wake cycle. It has been suggested that deregulation of melatonin secretion and occurrence of circadian rhythm disturbances may be the causes of jet lag.

Melatonin, a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain, acts to help reset the disturbed circadian rhythms and promotes sleep in jet lag and other circadian rhythm sleep disorders. Various aspects of its use for sleep disturbances are being increasingly investigated. It should be noted that melatonin has both hypnotic and chronobiotic (the ability to re-train the sleep cycle) features, which have been shown to be of benefit not only for a rapid resynchronization of desynchronized circadian rhythms but also in promoting sleep in intercontinental jet travelers.

A variety of non-pharmacological therapies have also been used to attenuate the symptoms of jet lag. In principle, efforts to adjust light exposure, activity and mealtimes to the new schedule as soon as possible after arrival, promote more rapid resetting of the internal clock.

The Internet has many research-based articles on the use of melatonin for jet lag as well as articles that should be read with caution. Always consult your physician before initiating a medication regime, even with readily available over-the-counter medications.

Some research-based articles can be found here:
Jet lag causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention
Travelers' health
Identifying and treating jet lag

Travel Medicine, Volume 6, January-March 2008
Jet Lag: Therapeutic use of Melatonin and Possible application of Melatonin analogs

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