Medical solutions for jetlag have been featured quite a bit in the news lately. Another article came out this morning from ABCNews.com. The story is pretty much the same: Nuvigil, a drug from pharmaceutical company Cephalon, has been submitted to the FDA to “treat” jetlag and they’re hopeful that it will receive approval soon. And the story behind the story is almost as entertaining as the actual news.
It turns out that testing the effects of a drug against jetlag means inducing jetlag and that means flying across an ocean. The testing experience was some fun and some not so fun to be certain, but the end result is the same: it is a great story. Plus, the drug seemed to work pretty well for me. Perhaps too well. Taking it for multiple days was more than I think I really needed, but it definitely kept me up and more alert than I think I otherwise would have been.
Oh, and there’s a great picture of me on page two of the story.
- A prescription cure for jetlag?
- Getting paid to fly, part 2
- France surrenders. Again.
- A quick jetlag recovery trick
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Seth, I’d encourage you to try the StopJetLag program referenced in the ABC article. For $35 you get an itinerary personalized to your flight times and personal habits, suggesting what and when to eat, sleep, reset your watch, and other factors that cause jet lag.
I’ve used their service for 9 international trips, between my home base in Houston, TX and the U. K. and Australia/New Zealand. In every case my body was on local time when I arrived at my destination, eastbound or westbound, and I’ve never lost a productive minute to jet lag.
But what is the impact on your day-to-day activities prior to departure? If the process messes with my pre-departure life as well then it doesn’t work. At least not the way I need it to. Trading inconvenience and inefficiencies from one end of the trip to the other doesn’t eliminate the problem; it simply shifts it.
I don’t use drugs (unless you count alcohol). Instead I use common sense and exhaustion approach. When I’m exhausted I’ll sleep, so the trick is to be exhausted at the right time.
Like you, I’m sceptical about jetlag strategies that require planning over multiple days. What happens if your flight is delayed 12 hours?
In the late ’80s and early ’90s I lived and trained, for my particular sport, in Hungary. I would have to travel to the US 5 times a year for competitions and to see my family in California and then back to Europe for training or a world cup competition on the way back. It was important to be peaking both mentally and physically for the competitions. Jetlag was a big problem for me. As you probably know, it’s basically the problem of shifting your sleep schedule and keeping in sync associated biorhythms like the temperature cycle. I haven’t looked at sleep research in the last decade so my knowledge may be out of date. My understanding is you can shift your sleep cycle (without any debilitating effect) forward 1.5 to 2.5 hours per day but backward only about half an hour. This is why traveling East is harder with the worst shift being about 9 hours earlier (or 15 hours later, exactly the shift from California to Europe). It is best to start your sleep cycle shift before you leave taking into account the above limitation and the total shift. This did work better for me when I used melatonin. Provigil is banned by the USADA for my sport but Nuvigil isn’t, so far. I am sure it will be once it’s approved by the FDA. Melatonin is not prohibited and may be the only choice for athletes who travel and don’t have the time or money to hang out for several days at the city of each competition. interesting note: Provigil, I have heard, is being used by fighter pilots instead of amphetamines these days.
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