• 1 Department of Physiology, School of Medical Sciences, University Sains Malaysia, Kubang Kerian, Kota Bharu, Kelantan Malaysia
Travel Med Infect Dis, 2008 Jan-Mar;6(1-2):17-28.
PMID: 18342269 DOI: 10.1016/j.tmaid.2007.12.002


Each year millions of travelers undertake long distance flights over one or more continents. These multiple time zone flights produce a constellation of symptoms known as jet lag. Familiar to almost every intercontinental traveler is the experience of fatigue upon arrival in a new time zone, but almost as problematic are a number of other jet lag symptoms. These include reduced alertness, nighttime insomnia, loss of appetite, depressed mood, poor psychomotor coordination and reduced cognitive skills, all symptoms which are closely affected by both the length and direction of travel. The most important jet lag symptoms are due to disruptions to the body's sleep/wake cycle. Clinical and pathophysiological studies also indicate that jet lag can exacerbate existing affective disorders. It has been suggested that dysregulation of melatonin secretion and occurrence of circadian rhythm disturbances may be the common links which underlie jet lag and affective disorders. Largely because of its regulatory effects on the circadian system, melatonin has proven to be highly effective for treating the range of symptoms that accompany transmeridian air travel. Additionally, it has been found to be of value in treating mood disorders like seasonal affective disorder. Melatonin acts on MT(1) and MT(2) melatonin receptors located in the hypothalamic suprachiasmatic nuclei, the site of the body's master circadian clock. Melatonin resets disturbed circadian rhythms and promotes sleep in jet lag and other circadian rhythm sleep disorders, including delayed sleep phase syndrome and shift-work disorder. Although post-flight melatonin administration works efficiently in transmeridian flights across less than 7-8 times zones, in the case longer distances, melatonin should be given by 2-3 days in advance to the flight. To deal with the unwanted side effects which usually accompany this pre-departure treatment (acute soporific and sedative effects in times that may not be wanted), the suppression of circadian rhythmicity by covering symmetrically the phase delay and the phase advance portions of the phase response curve for light, together with the administration of melatonin at local bedtime to resynchronize the circadian oscillator, have been proposed. The current view that sleep loss is a major cause of jet lag has focused interest on two recently developed pharmacological agents. Ramelteon and agomelatine are melatonin receptor agonists which, compared to melatonin itself, have a longer half-life and greater affinity for melatonin receptors and consequently are thought to hold promise for treating a variety of circadian disruptions.

* Title and MeSH Headings from MEDLINE®/PubMed®, a database of the U.S. National Library of Medicine.