London, December 2 : A new drug based on the hormone melatonin has been found to offer an effective treatment for jet lag in clinical trials, say researchers.
Experts from Harvard Medical School in the US and Monash University in Australia have found that the drug tasimelteon made it easier for volunteers to get to sleep, and helped them stay asleep for longer, after their sleeping pattern was disrupted to mimic long distance travel.
"(The drug) could be a first-line therapy for people burdened with the effects of travel across time zones or working at night," the Independent quoted the authors as saying.
Melatonin is a natural hormone produced in the brain that helps to set the body clock, which controls the sleep-wake cycle, according to background information in a research article published in the journal The Lancet.
The findings resulted from separate studies involving 450 people in sleep laboratories at 21 sites in the US.
"Tasimelteon has the potential for the treatment of patients with transient insomnia associated with circadian rhythm sleep disorders, including people affected by jet lag," say the authors.
However, since the new drug has not been tested against the hormone, some experts believe that there was nothing to suggest that it was more effective.
Irshaad Ebrahim of the London Sleep Clinic said that drugs like tasimelteon, collectively known as melatonin agopnists, had "about the same effect" as melatonin.
"You can't get melatonin in Britain because it has not undergone clinical trials. But you can walk into health food stores in the US, or South Africa, or Australia and buy as much as you like," Dr Ebrahim said.
"People don't take melatonin seriously because it is a health food supplement. So drug companies have said, 'let's find something that has a similar effect that we can register as a medicine,'" he added.