Jet Lagged? Lighten Up

A light box plus melatonin may let travelers arrive refreshed

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FRIDAY, Nov. 11, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Tired travelers may have a means of reducing or preventing jet lag, researchers report.

By using light box therapy and the over-the-counter drug melatonin, people can reset their circadian "body clocks" before a journey, according to a U.S. study in the current issue of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

This approach can also be used to help people with delayed sleep phase syndrome (DSPS), a condition caused by misalignment between a person's internal clock and the external environment.

This study of 44 healthy adults is the first "to show that melatonin and bright light can both help to advance the circadian clock, and the combination of bright light and melatonin produces a larger phase advance than bright light alone," study senior author Charmane Eastman said in a prepared statement.

Eastman is director of the Biological Rhythms Research Lab and professor of behavioral sciences department at Rush University Medical Center, in Chicago.

"The findings are very practical. A business person could go to a pharmacy and buy 0.5 mg of melatonin over the counter. He or she would also have to buy or rent a light box. Then before flying east, he or she could go to bed and wake up earlier each day while using the light box in the morning and taking melatonin in the evening. If they did this for the number of days equivalent to the number of time zones crossed, they should be completely adjusted to the new time zone before they fly," Eastman said.

"However, even following the schedule for a few days before flying would reduce the jet lag experienced upon arrival at the destination. The more days a person follows this procedure, the less jet lag they will have on landing and the sooner they will adjust and feel no jet lag," Eastman said.

More information

The U.S. National Sleep Foundation has more about jet lag.

SOURCE: Rush University Medical Center, news release, Nov. 1, 2005

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