How to Use Melatonin Tablets to Prevent Jet Lag

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Anyone who has travelled from one time zone to another has experienced the discomfort and malaise of jet lag, a condition known medically as desynchronosis. A consequence of hormonal imbalances caused by a disruption of the day-night cycle as perceived by our bodies, jet lag can make the first few days of a holiday or business trip tiresome, and it is therefore no surprise that many people look for a method of treating or preventing the condition.

Melatonin tablets are a popular choice at present, and in this article we look at how melatonin works to prevent jet lag, and how the medication can be taken to achieve its effects.

Mechanisms of Melatonin

Melatonin makes a useful method of addressing jet lag because it is a hormone vital to our body’s natural rhythms. Melatonin’s release is part of a biological clock system called the circadian rhythm, an important physical system in mammals like us. The circadian rhythm involves the timed release of hormones to create a day-night cycle within the body which controls wakefulness and sleepiness amongst other properties, including the levels of other hormones.

This system is an important part of a complex signalling system upon which the body relies, and it is also what is affected by travel from one time zone to another. The circadian rhythm is sensitive to light, with specialised receptors within the eyes working to signal to the brain changes in light levels that indicate day and night. Our natural hormone levels change in response to this, and one of the hormones susceptible to light change is melatonin.

Our bodily levels of melatonin peak at night, decreasing in quantity the rest of the time to form a chemical clock on which we rely. When we travel from one time zone to another, particularly in a west to east direction, our exposure to an unusual amount of sunlight disrupts the light sensitive production of melatonin, and off sets our body clock.

Because of its importance in regulating the body clock, melatonin is a prime candidate as a medical therapy addressing jet lag.

Taking medicinal melatonin to address jet lag

By taking artificial melatonin to treat jet lag we can help our body clock adjust to changes in the time zone and amount of light we are exposed to. Before taking such a medication, it is always important to check with either a pharmacist or your GP that you don’t suffer from any contraindications or the like. Conditions like epilepsy and medicines like warfarin are usually contraindications for melatonin treatment for jet lag.

Melatonin can be taken as a tablet to prevent jet lag, however because there is no strong evidence supporting its effectiveness and safety, it remains an un-licensed drug. It is possible to obtain melatonin through your doctor, who will be able to prescribe it as an off-license option and will be able to talk you through your suitability for the drug and any potential side effects.

Despite the lack of strong evidence, there are some indications that melatonin can help with jet lag, and considering the importance of this particular hormone in our daily cycles, it is unsurprising that this is the case. While melatonin might not be the right option for you, it is worth exploring and talking to your GP about it. If you can benefit from the drug it can improve your travelling experience, which can be particularly beneficial on long distance, short term trips.

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