Jet lag and melatonin

What is melatonin?

Melatonin is a hormone released by the pineal gland at night, which regulates the sleep-wake cycle. The maximum concentration of melatonin in blood can be measured between 2 and 4 am.


What is jet lag?

Jet lag is a physiological condition due to alterations of the body’s sleep-wake cycle. Usually people suffer from jet lag more when they travel west to east (for example New York to Moscow) compared to when they travel east to west (for example from London to San Francisco).

Can melatonin be useful to reduce jet lag symptoms?

Melatonin can indeed reduce jet lag, especially for people travelling west to east and crossing at least five time zones. The best moment to take melatonin is close to the target bedtime at the destination. If the time of assumption is not correct (too early in the day), melatonin can have the opposite effect and delay adaptation to the new time zone.

In a double-trial, Petrie and collaborators used melatonin as a treatment for jet lag in international cabin crew. 52 international cabin crew were randomly assigned to three groups; early melatonin (5 mg started 3 days prior to arrival until 5 days after return home); late melatonin (placebo for 3 days then 5 mg melatonin for 5 days); and placebo. The scientists measured daily jet lag, mood, and sleepiness, showing an improved recovery in the late melatonin group and a worse recovery in the early melatonin group as compared to placebo. Data taken 6 days after arrival showed less jet lag and sleep disturbance and faster recovery of alertness in the late melatonin group, compared to both early melatonin group and placebo.

Have you ever used melatonin to reduce jet lag?


Brasure et al., “Management of Insomnia Disorder”, (2015),

Brown et al., “Melatonin and its relevance to jet lag”, (2009),

Herxheimer et al., “Melatonin for the prevention and treatment of jet lag”, (2002),

Petrie et al., “A double-blind trial of melatonin as a treatment for jet lag in international cabin crew”, (1993),

Srinivasan et al., “Jet lag: Therapeutic use of melatonin and possible application of melatonin analogs”, (2008),


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