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Hong Kong Tourism Board


Jet Lag & Melatonin

Sharon B. Wingler is a flight attendant and the author of the newly released guide, Travel Alone and Love it. If anyone should know about dealing with jet lag, it is this much travelled woman.

I began researching melatonin because I'd heard so much about it being used to combat jet lag. My health food guru told me it is primarily used as a sleep aid. He said his store can hardly keep up with the demand for it. One customer was cured of a 15 year case of insomnia. In further reading it occurred to me that melatonin seems to be the "vitamin C" of the 90s. Some studies have shown it to offer many exciting benefits. Among them are not only help in fighting jet lag and insomnia, but also help in the fight against aging and cancer. It seems to boost the body's immune system and protects cells from free-radical damage.

What is melatonin? It is a hormone that occurs naturally in the human body. Secreted by the pineal gland in response to light, melatonin helps regulate the rhythms of our sleep and the action of other hormones. The level of melatonin in our bodies peaks in childhood and continue to decline as we age. Therefore, replacing the older body's "lost" melatonin helps us to "sleep like a baby."

Be cautious with this, as with many other supplements, as the jury is still out over long term effects. Still, as a sleep aid, it seems to me to be more natural and, safer than sleeping pills. The pills I have are sublingual (to be dissolved under the tongue) and in 2.5 milligram strength. I usually break the tablet into half dose size. I have always slept well but I do notice that I drift off to sleep a bit more quickly with melatonin, and I wake up with no groggy after-effect.

The recommended nightly dosage in combating jet lag is 5 milligrams. You should not continue this high a dosage after your jet lag passes. Definitely do not take melatonin with a sleeping pill. Read the label carefully for any possible warnings. Melatonin is not to be taken by children, teenagers, pregnant or lactating women, nor by people with certain medical conditions. It is best to ask your doctor about it.

For further information, you may read the articles in Newsweek, August 7, 1995 and Newsweek, November 6, 1995. Books include The Melatonin Miracle, by Pierpaoli and Regelson with Colman (Simon and Shuster) and Melatonin: Your Body's Natural Wonder Drug by Reiter and Robinson (Bantam Books)

Ed. note: To date, melatonin can be purchased freely in the U.S.A. but has not yet been approved by the Canadian Food and Drug. And, while it is illegal for stores to sell it in Canada, there seems to be no law against bringing it in from the States.





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