Traveling across time zones comes with its own problems. It can make focusing difficult and ultimately hamper productivity. Fortunately, the symptoms can be minimized with proper planning and wakefulness-promoting medications like modafinil. But it must be used correctly for it to work effectively. This guide covers everything you need to know about taking modafinil for jet lag.
You will also get to understand exactly what jet lag is and the possible risks of taking the drug for this condition. Let’s dive in.
What Is Modafinil?
Modafinil is a wakefulness-promoting medication. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved it to treat excessive daytime sleepiness and other symptoms caused by 3 major sleep disorders :
Modafinil has mood-elevating and cognitive-enhancing effects. This is why doctors often prescribe it off-label for people with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). On the other hand, because of the cognitive-enhancing effects, healthy individuals take it off-label to gain a competitive edge in the workplace and school. Some of its reported benefits include:
- enhanced memory and learning;
- faster mental processing speed;
- improved motivation;
- increased focus and concentration;
- increased energy levels.
The medical society discourages modafinil’s use for cognitive enhancement because it is not approved for it, but the number of people who continue to take it for that purpose is on the rise. This is because it has proven effective, with minimal side effects.
The drug is available in two dose strengths: 100 mg and 200 mg. It is also available in generic versions under different brand names including ModaXL, Modavinil, Modalert, etc. It is safe, well-tolerated, and super-effective. However, it must be used correctly.
It is advisable to consult a doctor before starting treatment with it.
What Is Jet Lag Syndrome?
Jet lag syndrome is a type of sleep disorder that is caused by traveling through one or more time zones quickly. It happens when the body’s internal clock or circadian rhythm goes out of sync with cues such as daylight and eating time that it is accustomed to.
The symptoms of jet lag are temporary, but they can last anywhere from a couple of days to weeks, depending on the number of time zones crossed. Typically, most people experience the symptoms for 1–1.5 days for every time zone they cross. The disorder is self-diagnosable and self-treatable. The common symptoms often include :
- difficulty concentrating;
- mood swings;
- insomnia or excessive sleepiness;
- diarrhea, upset stomach, or constipation;
- a general feeling of being unwell.
Jet lag typically fades away within a few days after the body adjusts to the new time zone, but light therapy or medication can be used to eliminate the symptoms faster.
Is Modafinil Effective for Jet Lag?
Yes, modafinil is effective for jet lag. It belongs to a class of drugs called wakefulness-promoting medications; thus, it can help eliminate excessive sleepiness associated with crossing time zones. The fact that it also increases focus, elevates mood, and boosts energy makes it very effective against the disorder.
Many public speakers, actors, and even presidents use modafinil to stay on the top of their game during times of frequent travel. Back in 2010, many reporters suspected Barack Obama, the then-president, of regularly using modafinil to fight jet lag symptoms and stay sharp & alert during speaking engagements. Due to how many American presidents have depended on it to maintain performance, it earned the title of “the White House mystery drug” .
Many have given it a thumbs up based on its effectiveness for this purpose. What’s more, several studies have asserted that modafinil reduces some of the symptoms caused by jet lag. However, it is worth noting that the drug only works if it is used correctly .
Modafinil for Jet Lag: Tips for Correct Use
As stated earlier at the beginning of this guide, modafinil is available in strengths of 100 mg and 200 mg. Generally, it is advisable to start with the lower dose and only proceed to take the 200 mg dose if the former proves ineffective. Note that the right dosage for you is one recommended by your doctor or healthcare provider. Here are some tips for the correct use of the drug.
Take the Right Dosage
Do not take more than a single dose per day. Note that it is better to microdose on modafinil than to take an overdose to avoid negative after-effects. Also, do not split, dissolve, or crush the pills, as doing that can alter the dose required for the drug to work. Swallow the tablets whole with a substantial amount of water.
Take the Pill at the Right Time
Timing is everything when it comes to getting the best results with modafinil. The idea behind fighting the symptoms of jet lag is to stay awake during the day so you will be exhausted enough to fall asleep at night. Consequently, you should pop the modafinil pill early in the morning (in the new time zone). Modafinil’s effects last 12+ hours, so it will help keep you awake throughout the day. Note that taking the pill late in the day could affect your nighttime sleep and ultimately worsen the situation.
Be Mindful of Interactions
Modafinil interacts with alcohol, grapefruit, grapefruit juice, and certain medications such as antifungals, blood thinners, antibiotics, etc. Such interactions can reduce the effectiveness of modafinil or another drug it is taken with. It could even increase the risks of adverse effects. Be sure to confirm possible interactions on the information leaflet in the drug packaging.
Also, talk to your doctor about possible interactions before taking the medicine.
Possible Risks of Taking Modafinil for Jet Lag Syndrome
Modafinil is well-tolerated and safe, but it is not without side effects. Although they are few, it is still possible to experience them, especially if you use the drug incorrectly.
These above adverse effects are considered common because they often affect some people the very first time they take the drug. Fortunately, they rarely persist and typically go away without treatment. It is possible for more serious side effects such as shortness of breath, unusual weakness, confusion, chest pain, blurred vision, etc., to occur. However, they rarely do, except in cases of an overdose or other forms of misuse. Seek urgent medical attention if you notice any of these symptoms while taking the drug.
The Verdict: Using Modafinil for Jet Lag
Modafinil is effective for jet lag, several studies support that. It is also safe and well-tolerated. However, it is important to consider the legality of modafinil, travel laws, and those surrounding its possession and use in the country you plan on traveling to with it. Note that in most cases, it is illegal to enter a country with modafinil unless you have a valid prescription for it, written by a licensed doctor.
It is true that most security guards hardly concern themselves with whether or not a passenger is carrying modafinil, as they are mostly concerned about narcotics, weapons, and huge stacks of cash. Still, it is important to use your common sense and learn about the laws of the country you are visiting to avoid falling into trouble. If you must travel with modafinil, take only a small supply (30 tabs) for personal use.
Remember to consult your doctor before starting treatment with modafinil or any other medication.
- Modafinil. Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Wikipedia.org.
- Jet Lag Disorder – Symptoms and Causes. By Mayo Clinic Staff. Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Mayoclinic.org.
- Jet Lag: Symptoms: Causes, and How to Cope. Written by Eric Suni. Medically reviewed by Dr. Abhinav Singh, Sleep Physician. Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Sleepfoundation.org.
- The White House Mystery Drug. By Barbara Kantrowitz. Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Thedailybeast.com.
- Jet Lag: Timing Is As Important (Or More So) Than Medications. Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Calacademy.org.
- Ready for Takeoff? A Critical Review of Armodafinil and Modafinil for the Treatment of Sleepiness Associated With Jet Lag. By David E. McCarty. Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.
- Modafinil Side Effects: Common, Severe, Long Term. Medically reviewed by Drugs.com. Retrieved: November 2, 2022. Drugs.com.