Sleep and Your Body Clock - Topic Overview

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How can you treat sleep problems related to your body clock?

How you treat a sleep problem related to your body clock depends on what is causing the problem. Here are some tips for the most common problems.

Jet lag

Taking melatonin supplements may help reset your body clock. Studies show that melatonin has reduced the symptoms of jet lag for people flying both east and west.1

Suggestions about times and dosages vary among researchers who have studied melatonin. Doctors recommend that you:

  • Take melatonin after dark on the day you travel and after dark for a few days after you arrive at your destination.
  • Take melatonin in the evening for a few days before you fly if you will be flying east.

The safety and effectiveness of melatonin have not been thoroughly tested. Taking large doses of it may disrupt your sleep and make you very tired during the day. If you have epilepsy or are taking blood thinners such as warfarin (Coumadin), talk to your doctor before you use melatonin.

The sleeping pills eszopiclone (Lunesta) and zolpidem (Ambien) have been studied for jet lag. They may help you sleep despite jet lag if you take them before bedtime after you arrive at your destination. Side effects include headaches, dizziness, confusion, and feeling sick to your stomach.

For more information on jet lag, see:

Sleep Problems: Dealing With Jet Lag.

Shift work

If you work the night shift or rotate shifts, you can help yourself get good sleep by keeping your bedroom dark and quiet and by taking good care of yourself overall. In some cases, prescription medicine or over-the-counter supplements may help. Here are some tips on sleeping well when you do this type of shift work:

  • Make sure that the room where you sleep is dark. Use blackout drapes, or wear a sleep eye mask.
  • Wear earplugs to block sounds.
  • Don't have alcohol or caffeine in the hours leading up to bedtime.
  • Take a nap during a work break if you can.
  • Ask your doctor if you should try a dietary supplement or medicine. Doctors usually advise people to use a supplement or medicine only for a short time.

For more information, see the topic Shift Work Sleep Disorder.

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