Effects of Melatonin

12/10/2016 - Captain Bunn
Effects of Melatonin

Alfred Lewy, professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health Services University, has done extensive study of the effects of melatonin. On a visit with him, I asked him why his work had not been translated into practical use for people needing to deal with jet lag.

He told me there were two issues:

  1. effective use of melatonin for jet lag is very complex; how melatonin needs to be used depends upon how many time zones are being crossed, andwhether they are being crossed from east to west or visa versa;
  2. information on how to translate these time zone considerations into practical use of melatonin is the property of the University.

Yet, The New York Times contains an article by Jane E. Brody on jet lag which includes detailed information on how to use melatonin based on Lewy’s extensive research. If you are an international traveler, getting a copy of the article is well-worth the trouble of registering to get on-line access, or making a trip to the library. You can access it at:

If traveling east to west, take melatonin on the day of your flight when you wake up . And, upon arriving, take melatonin when you wake up. During the next two to three days, take melatonin two hours later than the previous day. If crossing one to six time zones.

If traveling west to east, take melatonin when you wake up if crossing ten or more time zones, but at 3:00 PM if crossing fewer zones. Upon arriving, take melatonin twenty-four hours than you previously took it. Then for the next two to three days, take melatonin two hours earler than the previous day.

There are also recommendations to get and to avoid sunlight at certain times. Since these recommendations are more complex, please refer to the article to apply the techniques to your particular travel plans.

The article also refers to the Argonne diet, a jet lag fighting strategy that prescribes when to use high-protein foods and when to use high-carbohydrate foods, starting four days prior to travel, in order to facilitate resetting the digestive system upon arrival at your destination with a high-protein breakfast with coffee. See:


Image Credit: Weatherston –