JET LAG is the term used to describe the discomfort often experienced by persons traveling to different time zones. It it believed due to lack of prompt adaptation of a person's own "internal biological clock" which is affected by the timing of daylight and darkness. Symptoms may include headache, dizziness, loss of appetite and concentration, malaise, and of course - extreme fatigue. It is generally more intense for eastward than westward travelers. For example when traveling eastwards you need to sleep, eat and work earlier than in your home time zone and when traveling westwards you need to sleep, eat and work later.Very long flights during with little or no restful sleep will exacerbate the jet-lag symptoms..

There are several ways to minimize the intensity of jet-lag compounded by  sleepless plane trips. We can suggest and prescribe various safe medications to help provide truly restful sleep on those long flights, and just as important, allow sleep at the usual local bedtime at your destination. Several medications are suitable. Melatonin is a health food store "natural" substance that works for some people and an option for those adverse to other medications.

Whatever you may choose to catch a nap on the plane, do not sleep with your legs crossed or doubled, or with pressure from the seat's edge on the backs of your thighs. This increases your risks for deep vein thrombosis and subsequent pulmonary embolis (blood clot to the lungs).Stay well hydrated, easy on the alcohol, and move about when possible or do isometrics with your leg, thigh and rump muscles.


Melatonin is a natural hormone produced by the pineal gland during darkness. It is able to help shift your body clock to earlier or later times. It also reinforces the effects of darkness, for example, it increases sleepiness, decreases alertness and lowers your temperature slightly.

To help alleviate jet lag you must take it at particular times of day. Taken at other times, it could have less desirable effects. It is not worth using melatonin for time zone transitions of less than 5 hours.

Eastwards: When going East, take one capsule (2-5 mg) on departure day, if necessary on the flight, between 1800 - 1900h (6 - 7 pm) local time. On arrival take a capsule at local bedtime, 2200 - 2300h (10 - 11 pm) for 4 days.

If your stopovers are less than 4 days, the evening preceding your next departure, do not take a capsule at bedtime, but at 1800 - 1900h (6 - 7 pm) local time. On arrival take a capsule daily at local bedtime, 2200 - 2300h (10 - 11 pm) for 4 days.

Westwards: When going west, take a capsule daily at local bedtime, 2300h (11 pm) or later for 4 days after arrival at each stopover and at your destination. If you wake in the early hours of the morning (before 4 am) you may take another capsule. Do not take capsules preflight if going West, except of course, that if your stopover is less than 4 days you will be taking them at bedtime the night before departure.

NOTE: melatonin can induce sleepiness and lowered alertness in sensitive individuals. You are advised not to drive, operate heavy or dangerous machinery, or do equivalent tasks requiring alertness for 4 - 5 hours after taking your pill.

If you are a long-haul pilot or air crew, we do not advise you to use melatonin. This is due to potential difficulties with timing the dose. IF YOU INSIST AGAINST ADVICE ON SELF MEDICATING, NEVER TAKE MELATONIN UNLESS YOU HAVE 8 HOURS IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE DOSE IN WHICH YOU ARE GOING TO SLEEP.

If you or a close relative suffer from a psychiatric condition or migraine you are advised not to use melatonin. If you are under 18 years old or know (or suspect) that you are pregnant you are advised not to use melatonin.

Possible side effects of melatonin treatment are: sleepiness (desirable), headache (infrequent) and nausea (very infrequent).