How Melatonin can help make the Traveler Less Weary
By: Dr. Michael Breus
Travel can do a real number on sleep. Our bodies undergo a biological disruption when we travel long distances. Most of us know that biological disruption by another name: jet lag. That’s right: the fuzzy-brained, exhausted, and discombobulated sensations of jet leg aren’t just in your head. Jet lag takes place in our cells.
Our biological clocks—which control our sleep-wake cycles and much about how we operate during the day—run in sync with the 24-hour cycle of the sun. When we change time zones, we subject our bodies to an abrupt and often significant change from its typical 24-hour sunlight-darkness cycle.
Modern travel allows us to move great distances with incredible speed. But our bio clocks are simply not built to adjust instantaneously. You may have jetted to Barcelona, but your body’s biological clock is still expecting the sun to rise and fall on Minneapolis time. When it doesn’t, your biological clock goes haywire for a while, as it works to adjust to its new environment.
Melatonin plays a key role in regulating sleep-wake cycles and the body’s biological clock. Melatonin, sometimes referred to as the darkness hormone or the sleep hormone, is produced primarily in the brain.
With melatonin levels running high, you feel less alert and more ready for sleep. Melatonin will stay high throughout the night, before falling to very low levels in the morning. Melatonin levels stay low throughout the day, helping you stay active and alert.
Melatonin production is triggered by darkness and inhibited by light. When your body thinks it should be dark and night but your eyes see light—as it often does with travel—and your bio clock is thrown out of sync, using a melatonin supplement as a sleep aid can help you fall asleep when you need to. Getting sleep at the right times when traveling can make all the difference in avoiding sleep deprivation, which compounds the effects of jet lag, and interferes with your performance and the quality of your waking days.
Using Natrol® Melatonin when you’re traveling can help you adjust your biological clock more quickly to your new time zone and light-dark routine. That means less of the sluggish, enervating effects of jet lag, and more of you functioning at your best, whether you’re taking meetings or seeing the sights.
Try these other tips in conjunction with Natrol Melatonin to help minimize the effects of travel on your sleep and performance:
Get sunlight at the right times. Sunlight exposure in the morning sends a powerful message to the body’s biological clock, helping it re-set to its new environment. Make sure your mornings on the road—especially the first one—include some time in the sun.
Start adjusting your schedule before you depart. You can help your body acclimate to a different time zone by making gradual changes to your sleep-wake routine ahead of your trip. Work in 15-minute daily increments, moving your bedtime and wake time closer to what you want it to be at your destination.
Give yourself a chance to sleep in transit. Use earplugs and an eye mask to block the environmental stimuli—your seatmate’s bright laptop screen, the chatterbox sitting behind you—that prevent you from getting some shut eye while you’re en route. You can also use Natrol Melatonin for long flights to ensure you get some sleep while you’re in route.
Travel is one of life’s great pleasures. It’s even better when we can experience it rested and refreshed.
Michael J. Breus, PhD
The Sleep Doctor™
About Dr. Breus
Michael J. Breus, Ph.D., is a Clinical Psychologist, as well as a Diplomate of the American Board of Sleep Medicine and a Fellow of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine. He was one of the youngest people to have passed the Board at age 31 and, with a specialty in Sleep Disorders. Dr. Breus is on the clinical advisory board of The Dr. Oz Show and appears regularly on the show.