Anyone who has suffered from Jet Lag knows that it’s a nightmare for all travellers, often ruining business-trips or causing a sluggish start to a vacation. It’s a nasty part of travel experience that all of us could do without. Impaired alertness created by jet-lag is a primary issue which interferes with the quality of life and healthy functioning of a person. What is Jet Lag? And can it be beaten?
Jet-lag is the grogginess and sleepiness which arises from long-haul flights across multiple time-zones. Making matters worse is the inability to sleep, creating intolerable sleep-starved agitation which is sometimes accompanied by headache and mood-swings. The severity of jet-lag is directly proportional to the distance travelled around the equator.
What is Jet Lag?
Simply speaking Jet Lag interrupts our bodies relation to the environment. As human beings we are driven by patterns and cycles, this regularity in our habit is what helps us live well-functioning and healthy lives. More specifically it is a mild affliction involving our ‘body clock’ and circadian rhythm, which is a system inside the brain which regulates mental arousal and energy levels.
The symptoms of jet-lag vary from person to person, and the severity of the symptoms is proportional to the number of time-zones which have been crossed. Some of the most common jet-lag symptoms include:
- Difficulty sleeping caused by a sleep pattern which is disturbed
- Headaches, from disrupted metabolic processes which normally occur during sleep
- Nausea /Appetite loss, a result from a disrupted metabolism
- Apathy and general lethargy
Jet-lag is a sleep-related disorder similar to shift-work sleep disorder whereby afflicted people have disturbed sleep schedules due to unusual and irregular hours of work. It is our ‘body clock’ which subconsciously governs the sleep/wake cycle, primarily through the mechanism of melatonin secretion telling us when to sleep and wake inside our normal pattern of 24 hours. Symptoms can last up to 7 days, depending on your exposure to light and severity of the symptoms.
Circadian rhythms are composed of 24-hour interval processes which are present in mammals and allow an the organism to readjust to the environmental change of levels of darkness and light. The sleep-wake circadian rhythm is driven by the endocrine system which secretes melatonin and causes oscillations of core body temperatures effecting metabolic processes. While not all travellers experience jet-lag in older people the occurrence is less prevalent.
Is there a cure?
Jet Lag is very curable, usually after a couple of days of prolonged exposure to light your sleep/wake cycle will adjust to your new time-zone, though unfortunately if you adjust to your new zone upon travelling back you will again have to re-adjust. Because jet-lag is a self-curing condition it becomes effective to treat the symptoms and to reduce the duration of your recovery process.
Other than passively adjusting to the new time-zone people can utilize wakefulness-promoting agents such as caffeine or modafinil and also sleep-aids (at appropriate intervals) in order to stay alert during the day and to be able to sleep during the night. This is helpful for travel which lasts more than two weeks but may not be effective for stays of up to a couple of days.
Treatment and prevention of Jet Lag
Treatment methods are mainly aimed toward circadian realignment in the fastest way available and to minimize as much as possible the negative symptoms of jet-lag. This can entail both pharmacological and non-pharmacological approaches via the use of therapies or substances.
Drugs Used to treat Jet Lag:
|Modafinil (Modalert, Provigil)
|Prescription; Online||CNS stimulant||50-, 150-, and 250-mg tablets||200 mg daily‡||$72.99 for 10 days|
|Melatonin||Over the counter||Nutraceutical||1-, 2.5-, 3-, or 5-mg tablets Sublingual tablets available||0.5–5 mg†||$7.99 per bottle of 120|
|Ramelteon (Rozerem)||Prescription only; brand available||Melatonin receptor analogue (agonist)||8-mg tablets||1,4, or 8 mg five minutes before bedtime‡||$66.99 for 10 days|
|Zolpidem (Ambien)||Prescription only; generic available CIV||Non-benzodiazepine hypnotic agent||5- and 10-mg tablets
5- and 10-mg sublingual tablets
5- and 10-mg oral spray
6.25- and 12.5-mg controlled-release tablets
|10 mg at bedtime‡||$14.99 for 10 days|
|Caffeine||Over the counter||Methylxanthine||250-mg capsules
|200 mg every three hours p.r.n.||$6.99 per box of 40|
|Diphenhydramine (e.g., Benadryl)||Over the counter||Antihistamine||25- and 50-mg capsules
50-mg capsule, liquid-filled
25- and 50-mg tablets
|50 mg at bedtime p.r.n.||$3.49 per box of 48|
|Armodafinil (Nuvigil)||Prescription only; brand available CIV||Amphetamine-related CNS stimulant||50-, 150-, and 250-mg tablets||150 mg daily‡||$72.99 for 10 days|
Light therapy is a very effective way to cure jet-lag, primarily because sunlight has a massive effect on the internal cardican clock. Light therapy is a simple treatment which involves exposing your body to the natural daylight of the new region which you are adjusting your body clock to. If for some reason natural daylight is not accessible it is possible to use synthetic light from lamps or light boxes, the important thing being that the source of light contains adequate levels of UV rays, which will penetrate the eyes and signal to the brain to stop releasing melatonin. Light therapy is an ideal treatment for jet-lag because it does not require the use of drugs, and rather than mask symptoms the source of the problem itself (misadjusted circadian rhythm) is corrected.
In humans sleep is caused primarily by an increase in levels of melatonin, which signal the brain to enter a sleep phase. It is produced from serotonin inside the pineal gland. Synthetic melatonin can be taken in order to shift sleep-phases. Travellers should take melatonin on the day of the travel on the projected night-time of the travel. For example if you are travelling from the UK to Australia you should project the time which you want to be sleepy at in the time-zone of Australia, and take melatonin (5-10mg) at the time you would like to be asleep at. For further days after having travelled to the new location melatonin should be still taken for up to a week, depending on the levels of adjustment of the sleep cycle. Melatonin can be effectively combined with light therapy in order to efficiently down-regulate and up-regulate melatonin in accord with the levels of light and darkness in the new time-zone.
Modafinil for jet lag
Modafinil is a mild central nervous stimulant (CNS), and can be safely used to promote wakefulness in people effected by a shift in sleep phases. It is used off-label for the treatment of jetlag. It is preferable over other stimulants such as caffeine because it is long acting, remaining inside the body for up to 12 hours. Modafinil comes in the forms of Provigil and Modalert (generic modafinil), and the FDA are reviewing the modafinil manufacturer Cephalon application of modafinil to treat jet-lag.
In addition to this there are numerous studies examining the efficacy of modafinil in treating Jet Lag Syndrome (JLS).
Notable examples of modafinil for jet lag:
Ex-President Obama is suggested to have been prescribed modafinil, information gleaned from his medical report released in 2010:
“Jet lag/time zone management, direct physician prescribed program, occasional medication use.”
Buying Modafinil Online
Modafinil can be brought online from many online retailers for as little as $1 a pill. Afinilexpress is a popular supplier of modafinil stocking mainly Artvigil (armodafinil) and Modalert (modafinil). Purchases can be made with either credit card or bitcoin and they have live order tracking allowing you to be notified about the location of your parcel. Shipments arrive in as little as 7-14 days following your order, one of the fastest shipping rates in the industry. If you are looking to buy modafinil then this is a vendor which I highly advise.
Risks and considerations:
While modafinil is very effective at promoting wakefulness and increasing vigilance there are some mild risks associated with using modafinil to treat jet-lag syndrome. Dehydration can further exacerbate negative symptoms which is why it is important to stay hydrated especially on modafinil as it can cause dehydration.
It is also worth noting that modafinil will merely reduce prominent symptoms of jet-lag, namely excessive sleepiness. Your circadian clock will not reset on modafinil alone, and for truly effective solutions further therapies should be engaged.