Melatonin and Jet Lag: The Complicated Relationship, Simplified

Melatonin and Jet Lag: The Complicated Relationship, Simplified

Who doesn’t want to jump aboard a plane to a far away island for some much-needed R&R?

Palm trees, coconut drinks, and dancing the night away. Sounds ideal, right? Of course. However, after a six hour flight with two layovers and then a delay on the runway while you’re crammed into a seat between two other people – you soon realize that you’re going to need a vacation from your vacation!

As fun as a getaway can be, the travel can be horrific. Even worse, it may end up ruining your time.

Interrupting your daily sleep schedule by vacationing at hours away, can make you sleepy during the hours you should be out and about exploring your surroundings. The skipping of time zones creates jet lag, affecting our bodies natural production of melatonin. Thus turning you from a party animal into a party pooper!

What is Jet Lag?

The more technical term for jet lag is desynchronosis. It’s meaning is exactly the way it sounds. Your body becomes unsynchronized and/or discombobulated!

Jet lag is the fatigue you feel the day after a long day of travel. According to the American Sleep Association (ASA), “travel across multiple time zones is the leading cause of jet lag.” Think about it: you’re not too tired if you stay up one hour later than normal… now think of yourself six hours past time. A walking zombie, right?!

The reason for this is that jet lag is the product of our body’s normal circadian rhythm being thrown off. The circadian rhythm is essentially a 24 hour biological clock. It is pivotal for regulating when we eat and when we sleep. Thanks to the regulation done by the circadian rhythm, our body can perform essential functions such as brain wave activity, cell rejuvenation, and the production of hormones.

circadian rhythmCircadian rhythms happen endogenously, meaning that this biological process takes place from within our body. We have little to no control over it. However, this cycle can be regulated and altered (as with the case of jet lag) by external causes such as temperature and sunlight. As we travel through time zones, these outlying factors change the production of hormones in our body, including melatonin.

The Importance of Melatonin

When we hear of the word, “hormones,” testosterone and estrogen typically come to mind. However, one of the most important hormones our body creates is melatonin. This sleep-inducing hormone is synthesized from the amino acid, tryptophan. Those who pig out on turkey at Thanksgiving and end up in a food coma have probably heard about tryptophan before…

Melatonin is released from a small area tucked away in the center of the brain known as the pineal gland. Sometimes known as the “third eye,” the pineal gland only secretes one singular hormone, and that is melatonin.

This pivotal hormone sets the pace for the entire circadian rhythm. Since birth, melatonin production became regulated by the sun going down in the evening and rising again in the morning. Based on the time you typically wake up and go to sleep, your body now naturally feels drowsy a couple hours before bed and begins to wake up a few minutes before your alarm is fixing to go off. The reason behind this is melatonin.

The Relationship Between Melatonin and Jet Lag

When we travel, we are already throwing our body off track by fighting off sleep, so we can stay up and have a good time. On top of that exhausting, albeit fun task, your body becomes exposed to sunlight during hours that it is not accustomed to seeing the star’s bright rays. This new pattern of light exposure is certain to throw your hormones out of whack.

When melatonin and jet lag come face to face, jet lag wins. As your body is naturally producing melatonin the hours that it always would, it is now being prompted at other times of the day to produce this hormone as well. That is why when you are suffering from jet lag it may take a few days to get into the groove of a new routine.

melatonin and jet lagAs melatonin and jet lag clash, the circadian rhythm essentially gets reset. The even bigger caveat is when you finally get on the same schedule as the sunlight in your getaway destination, you have to come home and reset your biological clock all over again.

How Melatonin Helps Get the Mind on Track

One of the ways to combat jet lag is through the use of melatonin supplements. One study conducted 10 trials to measure the relationship between melatonin and jet lag. In nine out of those 10 trials, researchers concluded that melatonin “decreased jet lag from flights crossing five or more time zones. Daily doses of melatonin between 0.5 and 5mg are similarly effective, except that people fall asleep faster and sleep better after 5mg than 0.5mg. Doses above 5mg appear to be no more effective.”

The best way to fight a lack of melatonin creation is to introduce it into your system yourself. This can be achieved through supplementation. In order to achieve maximum results, the best time of the day to take melatonin is within two hours before your desired bedtime.

Sleep Expert at John Hopkins University, Luis F. Buenaver, Ph.D. C.B.S.M. stated, “Melatonin levels rise about two hours before bedtime. Create optimal conditions for it (melatonin) to do its job by keeping the lights low before bed. Stop using your computer, smartphone or tablet — the blue and green light from these devices can neutralize melatonin’s effects.”

Conquer Jet Lag with Melatonin

Jet lag can ruin a good time. So why let it? Be proactive and supplement your thrown off sleep cycle with a boost of melatonin!

If you are looking for a natural way to regulate your sleep patterns, try using a melatonin spray such as Tranquility Lab’s own Sleep Fast Enhanced Melatonin Spray. This remedy combines the circadian rhythmic regulating hormone melatonin with natural sedatives such as valerian root, lemon balm and chamomile. Together, this all-natural spray is strengthened by the presence of 5-HTP, the precursor to the neurotransmitter that stimulates happiness, serotonin.

With at least six sprays prior to bedtime, Sleep Fast will have your biological clock regulated in no time!

Have you ever experienced jet lag? If so, have you taken any supplements such as melatonin to help you adjust? Please let us know about your experiences below.