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Drugs. 2018 Sep;78(14):1419-1431. doi: 10.1007/s40265-018-0973-8.

Approaches to the Pharmacological Management of Jet Lag.

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Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences (FHMS), University of Surrey, Guildford, Surrey, GU2 7XH, UK.


For many years now a treatment mitigating the debilitating effects of jet lag has been sought. Rapid travel across time zones leads, in most people, to temporary symptoms, in particular poor sleep, daytime alertness and poor performance. Mis-timed circadian rhythms are considered to be the main factor underlying jet-lag symptoms, together with the sleep deprivation from long haul flights. Virtually all aspects of physiology are rhythmic, from cells to systems, and circadian rhythms are coordinated by a central pacemaker or clock in the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN) of the hypothalamus. The SCN adapts slowly to changes in time zone, and peripheral clocks or oscillators adapt at different rates, such that the organism is in a state of desynchrony from the external environment and internally. Light exposure is the main factor controlling the circadian system and needs to be considered together with any pharmacological interventions. This review covers the relatively new chronobiotic drugs, which can hasten adaptation of the circadian system, together with drugs directly affecting alertness and sleep propensity. No current treatment can instantly shift circadian phase to a new time zone; however, adaptation can be hastened. The melatoninergic drugs are promising but larger trials in real-life situations are needed. For short stopovers it is recommended to preserve sleep and alertness without necessarily modifying the circadian system. New research suggests that modification of clock function via genetic manipulation may one day have clinical applications.

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