Jet lag supplements are a unique and convenient strategy to help your body clock synchronize with your destination time zone. Treating jet lag naturally will allow you to get on with either enjoying your holiday or work more efficiently on your business trip.
Jet lag is a common sleep disorder that happens when a person rapidly crosses multiple time zones. After transmeridian flights, many travellers can experience an
Jet lag has many unusual difficulty in going to sleep or the inability to stay asleep in the new time zone.downstream negative effects on the physical and mental state of the traveller during waking hours. This includes premature awakening, daytime sleepiness, general malaise, and reduced efficiency during waking hours.
Jet lag is caused by the desynchronization of the internal clock due to changes in the external environment light/dark cycle. In general, it will take a significant period of time for the traveller to readjust to the new time zone and for the circadian rhythm to realign.
The Circadian Rhythm
The circadian rhythm is the body’s internal cycle known as the body clock. It lasts approximately 24 hours because it is entrained by the earth’s 24-hour cycle of light and dark.
The circadian rhythm is controlled by the suprachiasmatic nucleus of the hypothalamus. This is responsible for controlling factors such as core body temperature and behavioral rhythms such as the sleep-wake cycle.
The sleep-wake cycle in particular is modulated by exposure to light, which in turn modulates the secretion of melatonin. In this system, light inhibits the secretion of melatonin and stimulates arousal whereas when melatonin is secreted by the pineal gland, it induces sleep.
How to cope with Jet Lag?
Jet lag is when the internal body clock is out of phase with the local light/dark cycle, which causes drowsiness or arousal at odd times. This effect is worse as you increase the number of time zones and it may take 2 to 3 days to recover.
Interestingly, research shows that people with rigid sleeping habits will suffer more than those with less rigid sleeping habits. In addition, morning-type people who wake up early will have less difficulty flying eastward whereas evening type people who wake up late will have less difficulty flying westward.
Jet lag management strategies target the sleep wake cycle to encourage readjustment. There are pharmacological and non-pharmacological methods to help circadian adaptation and these include:
- Natural supplements to help realign the body’s circadian rhythm and regulate sleep and prevent jet lag
- Prescription sleeping aids to encourage the onset of sleep, or stimulants to help keep you awake during the day
- Simple lifestyle changes such as staying active during the day and avoiding stimulants such as caffeine and tobacco in the afternoon or evening
- Manipulating diet such as high protein breakfast (promotes wakefulness) in the morning and a high carbohydrate dinner in the evening (promotes sleepiness)
- Strategic napping whereby you take long naps in the destination’s night time either pre-flight or in-flight
- Adopting bedtime habits that make going to bed a relaxing routine such as breathing exercises, meditation and creating a sleep friendly environment
What are the Symptoms of Jet Lag?
The main symptom that people experience with jet lag is the inability to fall asleep when they go to bed at their destination. With jet lag you may also experience the following physical symptoms.Physical symptoms associated with jet lag include:
- Muscular tension
- Gastrointestinal disruptions
- Day time sleepiness
- Day time napping
- Excessive yawning
Cortisol, also known as the stress hormone, is closely associated with a person’s mental health with research showing there are elevated levels after long-haul flights. Higher cortisol levels are frequently associated with depressed mood and anxiety in frequent travellers when compared to non-travellers.Mental symptoms associated with jet lag include:
- Mental fatigue
- Negative and depressed mood
What are the Benefits of Relieving Jet Lag with Supplements?
For many people who suffer from jet lag, one option that is often taken is to try prescription sleeping pills. However, these come with some significant side effects and it is quite easy to become dependent on some types of sleeping pills. In addition, the quality of sleep afforded by sleeping pills is not as great as natural sleep.
Natural jet lag remedies can be complementary with the lifestyle and behavioral changes you make to treat jet lag and improve sleep. These alternative remedies can reduce the time it takes to adapt to the new time zone and help promote a restful night’s sleep and reduce fatigue during the day.
Melatonin and Jet Lag
Melatonin is a neurotransmitter-like compound that is produced by the pineal gland in the brain and is intimately involved in the body’s circadian rhythm and the regulation of sleep.
Studies have shown that there is an association between melatonin release and the onset of sleep. Therefore, supplemental melatonin has been used to realign the body’s internal clock with the new time zone of the new environment. Melatonin has been shown to be remarkably effective in either preventing or reducing jet lag.
Melatonin supplements are primarily used to normalize irregular sleeping and can decrease the latency time between awake and sleep phases as well as improving sleep quality. It is recommended that travellers who are flying across more than five time zones should consider melatonin supplementation.Melatonin supplementation can help with:
- Effective regulation of circadian rhythm in sleep disorders
- Correcting jetlag after travelling across multiple time zones
- Improve sleep quality in some cases of insomnia
- Improve sleep quality in cases of depression
- Correct sleep/wake rhythm in individuals with narcolepsy
5-HTP and Jet Lag
The compound 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP) is synthesized from the amino acid tryptophan and is a precursor for the hormones serotonin and melatonin. These hormones are both associated with the regulation of sleep patterns.
The amino acid 5-HTP although not directly associated with circadian rhythms has been implicated in sleep-wake behavior rather than actually directly promoting sleep. The action of 5-HTP is possibly through the modulation of the brain’s internal temperature, which is necessary for the body as it prepares for sleep.Supplementation with 5-HTP can help with:<
- Improving sleep quality
- Reducing anxiety and panic
- Supporting feelings of calmness
L-Tryptophan and Jet Lag
L-tryptophan is a natural amino acid that has been shown to increase levels of both serotonin and melatonin in the brain. These neurotransmitters are associated with the time before sleep, known as sleep latency, as well improving sleep quality.Therefore, supplementation with L-tryptophan may promote realignment of the circadian rhythm, which will help improve sleeping and reduce fatigue during the day. Supplementation with tryptophan can help:
- Promote better sleep
- Help jet lag
- Reduce physical and mental tension
- Improve athletic performance
Spirulina and Jet Lag
Spirulina is a blue-green algae that is found in fresh water in Central America and in Africa. It is enriched in vital nutrients such as vitamins and essential fatty acids as well as trace minerals such as potassium, magnesium and calcium. Spirulina also has a high protein content with eight essential amino acids present.
Spirulina has a nigh nutritional value and naturally provides you with energy and endurance as well as promoting general wellbeing. In a recently published study, Spirulina supplementation helped to reduce the sense of physical and mental fatigue.Therefore, Spirulina can help prevent subjective feelings of fatigue caused by jet lag and the inability to sleep.
- Reduce sense of fatigue
- Restores energy and vitality
- Stimulates body and mind
Guarana and Jet Lag
Guarana (Paullinia cupana) is a climbing plant native to Brazil with the majorituy found in the Amazon basin. Guarana has traditionally been used as a stimulant and a potent antioxidant. Guarana is effective at countering fatigue because it is naturally enriched in caffeine and other cognition-stimulating phytonutrients.
Guarana seed-extracts can have up to four times more caffeine than coffee beans, although this will depend on how it is prepared. However, studies also show that there are other components to guarana seed that provide additional stimulant effects above and beyond what caffeine alone gives.
Guarana supplements provide a more gradual and sustained release form of energy that is beneficial in those suffering from jet lag. Guarana is suggested to not interrupt the circadian rhythm and instead provides a stimulating effect that only reduces daytime sleepiness.Due to its natural stimulatory effects, guarana has the following benefits:
- Natural stimulant that is more potent than caffeine alone
- Potent psychoactive effects
- Improved cognition and memory
- Reduces fatigue
- Improves alertness
- Enhances physical performance
Who can benefit from taking a supplement to relieve jet lag?
Every year, millions of people travel across multiple time zones for business and for pleasure. Travelling long distances will result in jet lag, which is characterized by disturbances in sleep and daytime fatigue.
Jet lag will also result in physical and mental deficits, which depending on the reason for travel, will affect your work productivity or your ability to relax and enjoy your holiday.
Supplements for jet lag can naturally help to improve alertness and energy levels during the day and improve a more natural sleeping pattern. The following types of people can therefore benefit from taking a supplement to relieve jet lag:
- Travellers on long-haul flights
- Businessmen and women who travel for work
- Athletes competing internationally
- Holiday-goers travelling to international destinations
Jet lag supplements contraindications and cautions
Supplements for jet lag promote sleep and therefore there are the possibilities of interactions with other medicines. For example, sedatives may not interact favorably with jet lag supplements as it may cause too much drowsiness.
Conversely, taking stimulants such as caffeine and tobacco may decrease the effectiveness of supplements that are meant to help improve jet lag.
Why take a supplement for jet lag?
Subjective, cognitive and physical performances are all affected following transmeridian travel. Jet lag supplements can naturally assist with the following:
- Maintain optimal cognitive functioning during the day
- Maintain optimal physical ability during the day
- To reduce stress associated with jet lag
- To promote healthy sleeping patterns
1. Herxheimer A, Petrie K. Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2002; 2: CD001520
2. Flower D, Irvine D, Folkard S. Perception and predictability of travel fatigue after long-haul flights: a retrospective study. Aviat Space Environ Med. 2003; 74: 173-179
3. Kennedy D, Haskell C, Wesnes K, et al. Improved cognitive performance in human volunteers following administration of guarana (Paullinia cupana) extract: comparison and interaction with Panax ginseng. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2004; 79(3): 401-411
4. Beaumont M, Batéjat D, Piérard C, et al. Caffeine or melatonin effects on sleep and sleepiness after rapid eastward transmeridian travel. J Appl Physiol. 2004; 96(1): 50-58
5. Arendt J. Managing jet lag: some of the problems and possible new solutions. Sleep Med Rev. 2009; 13(4): 249-256
6. Culpepper L, Wingertzahn M. Over-the-counter agents for the treatment of occasional disturbed sleep or transient insomnia: a systematic review of efficacy and safety. Prim care Comp CNS Disord. 2015; 17(6)<7. Moustakas D, Mezzio M, Rodriguez B, et al. Guarana provides additional stimulation over caffeine alone in the planarium model. PLoS One. 2015; 10(4): e0123310
8. Johnson M, Hassinger L, Davis J, et al. A randomized, double blind, placebo controlled study of spirulina supplementation on indices of mental and physical fatigue in men. Int J Food Sci Nutr. 2016; 67(2): 203-206