As a smart person, would you be prepared to waste some of your precious time or take certain
risks just for a business trip? Would you be prepared to put up with sleep deprivation, and be
less efficient during an important meeting or a crucial financial transaction and thereby run
the risk of losing huge amounts of money? Would you be prepared to give up your days off in
a delightful place for the simple reason that there is a significant time difference between your
hometown and your holiday destination? Of course not!
In that case you would (almost) be ready to try out anything to overcome or at least to
alleviate the symptoms brought on by jet lag. The problem is knowing which is the best and
safest method to use.
When Professor LE BON asked me to write this foreword, I was a little puzzled. The use of the
Pharmacopeia is the domain of specialists and requires many precautions. If someone is ready
to assume the responsibility for potential health risks, and you give him what he requires in
the form of a ready-made recipe, even with all the necessary explanations and regardless of
his intelligence, he runs a risk.
An interesting comparison can be made between military operations and civilian activities. It
is common in military operations to be faced with situations such as sleep deprivation, fatigue
(both physical and cognitive), changes in biological rhythms, reduced performance and stress.
In these circumstances, solutions have been prepared, and in each country, rules have been
established which provide safe measures for soldiers to combat these conditions. The problem
is very simple: one must find a balance between, on the one hand, an assessment of the risk –
and ultimately that of death (for example, taking a pill which will makes the person realise the
very dangerous situation he is in), and on the other hand, a reasonable risk from the side
effects linked to a controlled form of medication. In a war situation, decisions often have to be
taken very quickly. In civilian activities, the stakes are not the same: it is not a life-or-death
situation but simply a problem of efficiency related to the patient’s health in the short- or
long-term. As a doctor, I cannot approve this use of medication. The cure must not be worse
than the disease.
Nevertheless, scientific progress helps us to deal with new situations which do not incur great
risks. I think that every person should be responsible for their own health and act according to
their own ethics. However, to be able to take these kinds of decisions, people must be wellinformed
and be provided with comprehensive information. Those concerned should know
precisely the risks associated with the actions which have been recommended. They should
also know themselves inside-out. In the army, soldiers tend to be young, in very good physical shape, and used to a heavy workload. Smart people may be young or old, with or
without metabolic or any other disease which may hinder their recovery. Each person ought to
recognise his own vulnerabilities in the face of environmental constraints and act accordingly.
This is the first book to detail the different measures smart people who are subject to the
effects of jet lag can take to alleviate it. Twenty-three different situations are outlined in this
book, one for every time-zone, as well as the options which are suggested to help to find the
safest and most efficient solution. I think that this book is a new and original contribution in
the struggle against jet lag.
I wish this book every success in the hope that it will be used reasonably by smart people.
Major-general (2°S) Didier Lagarde
French Forces Biomedical Research Institute
In my opinion, anyone who claims that there is a universal and simple cure for jet lag is naive, misinformed or dishonest. There is no such cure. No remedy, application or device is yet
capable of eliminating it completely, especially if you take into consideration the fact that jet
lag differs whether you travel eastwards or westwards and depends on the number of times
zones you cross.
I am confident though, that finding a cure is only a matter of time. Tomorrow, or within five
or twenty years, a way to adapt immediately to time zone shifts will be invented, patented and
distributed. Soon, jet lag will be a thing of the past. But what can be done in the meantime?
There is, as just mentioned, no universal cure and the problem is more complex than it looks,
but there are a lot of things that can already be done to help you overcome jet lag if you are
affected by it.
Jet lag seems to bother people to varying degrees. To some, like me unfortunately, it
repeatedly harms work and holidays if nothing is done about it. Other, more fortunate people
seem to adjust almost seamlessly to even several time zone shifts, going to work practically as
soon as they land, as though nothing had happened. The majority however are somewhere in
As I am fond of travelling, I started to explore the scientific remedies that are presently
proposed. No-nonsense measures can do a lot of good with little effort. Bright light and
melatonin shorten the adaptation time. Sleeping pills help you obtain enough sleep and
stimulants help you stay well awake when needed.
I rapidly realized though that there are as many optimal strategies against jet lag as there are
time zones (minus one of course if you remain in the same one). Designing specific
"treatments" or "remedies" for each of them increases their effectiveness by a good notch.
I thus started with the available evidence-based medicine on the matter, in order to learn what
could really help. I then extrapolated from that to adapt these remedies to each possible time
zone shift. I did this on the basis of common sense, on my own experience as a traveller and
on reports by a few patients who trusted me. Thus this sometimes goes beyond proven
science, as many of the remedies described have not been field-tested at all or not sufficiently.
I wish that they had been or I wish that I could participate in their testing, but this would
require resources I do not have, as well as a lot of time.
These remedies only work if you use them wisely, opting for the best one intelligently and progressively. The graduated response strategy I suggest here is for you to try the simple
tricks and no-nonsense reasoning first. I then propose trying bright light and melatonin. If
these do not prove effective enough, you could try sleeping pills. Caffeine can be very
effective against sleepiness, especially if you wean yourself from it a week before departure.
If nothing works enough and you want to venture a little more into the field of stimulants,
then you may consider modafinil.
All in all, I believe that these combinations can already and safely solve the vast majority of
jet lag-associated problems. This book will bring to a wider audience this knowledge which
can still be improved. I hope that your feedback will help me to refine it for a future edition.
Don't forget this is a threesome party, as you will have to convince your doctor to prescribe
you the sleeping pills and stimulants.
My hope is that this book will help people who love or need to travel and continue to be
handicapped by jet lag.
Olivier LE BON
Université Libre de Bruxelles
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Olivier Le Bon