Treating jet lag  

There are several things you can do to help reduce the effects of jet lag.

When you arrive at your destination, you should:

  • establish a new routine and try to get used to it as soon as possible - eat and sleep at the correct times for your new time zone, not when you usually eat and sleep at home
  • avoid napping as soon as you arrive at your destination - even if you're tired after a long flight, try to stay active until the correct time to sleep; this will help your body adjust more quickly
  • spend time outdoors - natural light will help your body adjust to a new routine

Melatonin

Melatonin is a substance (a hormone and neurotransmitter) that your body releases in the evening. It helps to let your brain know it's time for your body to sleep.

Your body clock is synchronised to a diurnal (daytime) lifestyle by natural daylight and by the release of melatonin in your body. Social factors and possibly physical activity also play a part. 

Melatonin is produced when it gets dark to help your body for sleep. Your body stops producing melatonin at around dawn to help you wake up.

Some jet lag remedies contain melatonin to help you sleep at night when your body is finding it difficult to adjust to the new time zone. Melatonin has been found to help people sleep and reduce general feelings of jet lag in some (but not all) studies.

At the moment there's not enough evidence to say whether melatonin supplements are effective. Some people find them helpful, but they're not currently licensed in the UK for the prevention of jet lag.

There's also insufficient evidence regarding the possible side effects of melatonin for people taking the blood thinning medicine warfarin.

Because products containing melatonin aren't licensed, it's difficult to be certain how much melatonin they contain and whether other substances are present.

Sleeping tablets

Some people find taking sleeping tablets can help relieve any insomnia (difficulty sleeping) associated with jet lag. However, they're not usually recommended because of the risk of becoming dependent on them.

Sleeping tablets can also cause side effects such as:

Buying medicines online

You may be tempted to look for jet lag remedies online. However, take great care when buying medicines over the internet, particularly if it's usually only available on prescription. There's a risk of getting substandard or fake medicines that aren't safe or suitable to use.

If you're thinking about buying what may be a prescription-only medicine, you should consult your doctor, rather than buy the medicine direct from an internet supplier without a prescription.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has more information about buying medicines online.

Page last reviewed: 24/11/2014

Next review due: 30/09/2017