Health Watch - Beating Jet Lag

Health Watch is a Public Service of the Office of News and Publications and is intended to provide general information only and should not replace the advice of a medical professional. You should contact your physician if you have questions about any of these topics.



Do your sleep patterns stay home while your body travels overseas? You may need help beating jet lag.

Summer is peak travel season, with many people planning exciting overseas vacations. When you've paid so much for airfare and you're in a foreign setting, it seems a shame to spend the first few days of your vacation getting over jet lag. Jet lag occurs when you travel to a place that's in a significantly different time zone. Your watch may give one time, but your body is on a totally different schedule. It may be difficult to get up in the morning or to sleep through the night, and you may feel foggy or drowsy during the day while you're still adjusting.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have a three-step plan for beating jet lag. Dr. John Herman, a UT Southwestern psychiatrist and sleep disorders expert, suggests taking 6 milligrams of melatonin when it is 11:30 p.m. in your destination's time zone while you're in transit.

When you arrive at your destination, get out into the sunlight as soon as possible. On most flights to Europe, you arrive in the morning, but instead of heading to your hotel and taking a nap, get out in the sunlight and move around.

Then, one hour before bedtime on the day of your arrival, take another 3 milligrams of melatonin. Dr. Herman says the combination of melatonin and sunlight is the most powerful way to reset your rhythms. Follow the same advice in reverse to reset your system for your trip home.

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July 2004

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