One of the biggest problems with long-haul travel is jet lag. Quite simply, this is the disturbance of your normal sleeping pattern. It’s caused by the long time spent travelling and the difference in time zones. While it is not dangerous, it is an inconvenience, and can definitely cause problems both during and after your trip. These problems are usually related to tiredness, difficulty falling asleep or waking up, difficulty with concentration and memory, and sometimes digestive issues such as diarrhoea or constipation.
Experience little to no jet lag with your doctor’s help.
Your doctor can provide advice, and treatments, to help you overcome the problems that many people experience after long-distance travel. It’s difficult to avoid the effects of jet lag entirely, although there are many helpful actions you can take to reduce the severity of your symptoms. These proactive steps to experiencing little to no jet lag include: planning ahead to gradually adjust your sleep schedule to that of your destination. However, this is not always practical, particularly if you are travelling at short notice or are unable to adjust your schedule in this manner.
As a result, increasing numbers of people are turning to medications to help them make the most of their trip. Instead of spending much of your trip sleeping at odd hours or being too tired to take advantage of everything on offer, you can use medications to help. Your doctor should be able to help you find the best approach for you.
Avoid jet lag with Melatonin
A popular option for many travellers looking to avoid jet lag is Melatonin, also known as Circadin. This may be available over the counter, and it is a version of the natural hormone that regulates the body’s sleep cycle, or circadian rhythm. Melatonin is naturally secreted by the pineal gland during the evening, so the supplement can be used in order to aid sleep. It can be used on a long flight to help you fall asleep so that you arrive at your destination having adjusted to the time difference already – it’s not exactly no jet lag, but it’s close. The best time to take it will depend upon your flight times and your usual sleeping habits, so it varies from one person to the next. If you wake in the middle of the night, a low dose of Melatonin can also be used to help you get back to sleep.
If Melatonin supplements are not available (and they have been banned in some countries due to concerns over transmission of viruses, as animal products are used in their production), other medications to aid sleep may be used to reach next to no jet lag. Some people find that over the counter products such as diphenhydramine (sold as Benadryl, among others), are sufficient to induce sleep. It may also be possible for your doctor to prescribe sleeping aids or medications to help you relax, particularly if you get nervous about flying.
Sleeping tablets such as Ambien are quick-acting, especially if they are not taken with food, and rarely lead to any ongoing drowsiness. Alternatively, drugs such as Valium or Xanax, which are normally used to treat anxiety, may be prescribed to help you relax during the flight, which may allow you to fall asleep. However, these may cause longer-lasting side effects.
An alternative to the sleeping aids would be a drug to encourage wakefulness during the day, with modafinil being the best known of these. While these drugs are not currently approved specifically for the treatment of jet lag, some online doctors will prescribe them “off-label” for this purpose. These drugs are not often prescribed for use in cases of jet lag, although there is a great deal of discussion among doctors specialising in the treatment of travel-related conditions.