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Sleep Problems: Dealing With Jet Lag

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You can't wait to go to your sister's wedding and see family and friends. But you're not so thrilled at the idea of the long cross-country flight from California to North Carolina.

You feel fine for a while after you get there. But later that night, you have trouble sleeping, even though you're tired. And your stomach is giving you problems.

You have jet lag.

How can you deal with jet lag?

You can't cure jet lag, but you may be able to reduce the symptoms using the hormone supplement melatonin and sleeping pills. Other treatments besides medicines have not been studied or have been studied very little, but they may be worth trying.

Melatonin and sleeping pills

Melatonin is a hormone that your body makes. It regulates the cycle of sleeping and waking. Normally, melatonin levels begin to rise in the mid- to late evening, remain high for most of the night, and then go down early in the morning.

Taking melatonin may help "reset" your biological clock.

Suggestions about times and dosages vary among researchers who have studied melatonin. Doctors recommend that you:

The safety and effectiveness of melatonin have not been thoroughly tested. Taking large doses of it may cause sleep disruption and daytime fatigue. If you have epilepsy or are taking warfarin (such as Coumadin), talk to your doctor before you use melatonin.

The sleeping pills eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zolpidem (Ambien) have been studied for jet lag. They may help you sleep despite jet lag if you take them before bedtime after you arrive at your destination. You may have side effects of headaches, dizziness, confusion, and feeling sick to your stomach.

Other things to do

None of the things in the following lists have been proved to reduce jet lag, but some people find them helpful.

Before you go, and on the plane

When you arrive

If you have an important event, try to arrive a few days early so your body can adjust to the new time zone.

Credits for Sleep Problems: Dealing With Jet Lag

Current as of: November 7, 2022

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine
Lisa S. Weinstock MD - Psychiatry

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