If you've tried melatonin for insomnia caused by jet lag when you've traveled across multiple time zones, maybe melatonin has worked for you-but maybe it's made your symptoms a lot worse. Here's what you need to know to use melatonin with success.
The medical literature does not offer an unequivocal opinion as to whether melatonin really works. Meta-analyses (statistical combinations) of research studies were finding no effect, but in recent years, ambiguous findings have cropped up even the most meticulously planned studies.
Melatonin for insomnia works in the brain the same way as a cup of warm milk before going to bed, only much faster. The brain's pineal gland makes melatonin from the amino acid tryptophan, concentrating the chemical so it's at its highest levels just before normal bedtime at night. The manufacture of melatonin ensures that the brain is most active during the day and ready for rest at night.
Whether you are taking melatonin for insomnia or for treating some other condition, it's critical only to take melatonin when your schedule permits sleep for at least four to six hours. Melatonin is a potent sleep aid, one that can make your life miserable if sleep is not on your agenda.
Melatonin works best when it is started several days in advance of travel, and better if combined with light therapy. Scientists at the Biological Rhythms Research Lab at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recommend that if you are traveling from west to east, take melatonin in the afternoon for 1-3 days before you leave, then do your best to take melatonin in the early evening at your destination. At your destination, it is helpful to wake up early enough to get bright sunlight the next morning. The blue wavelengths of sunlight are especially helpful in readjusting the biological clock. In clinical trials, smaller doses (0.5 mg) seem to work just as well as larger doses (3.0 mg).
Traveling from east to west, for example, from New York to Los Angeles or from London to Mexico City, is much easier on the body. As you “gain time" your body has more opportunity to relax and fall asleep by bedtime at your destination.
Avoid Dehydration on the plane and find out more about Jet Lag and the Rhythm Method of Family Planning. Robert Rister is author of nine books and over 2,000 articles on natural health.