Jet lag is common when a traveler crosses more than five time zones. Symptoms may include sleep difficulty, fatigue, malaise, nausea, loss of appetite, and other gastrointestinal symptoms. Levels of performance, both intellectual and physical, may be less than par. Sleeping pills may be helpful in promoting sleep and adjusting to a new time zone after arrival. Options include newer medications such as zolpidem (Ambien) (PDF), as well as short-acting benzodiazepines such as temazepam (Restoril). The chief side-effect of all sleeping pills is drowsiness or dizziness upon awakening.
Other helpful measures include
- Get adequate rest before departure
- Drink plenty of fluids
- Eat light meals
- Avoid alcohol
- Upon arrival, get exposure to natural sunlight and readjust your schedule for meals, sleep, etc.) as soon as possible
There is limited evidence that melatonin, which is available without a prescription in the United States, may reduce the symptoms of jet lag. The available data suggest that dosages between 0.5 and 5 mg are equally effective, except that travelers fall asleep more quickly on the higher dose, and that slow-release melatonin is less effective than the fast-release formulation.
From the World Health Organization (WHO)
Travel by air: health considerations
From the Centers for Disease Control (CDC)
From Health Canada
Travel statement on jet lag (PDF)