Jet Lag Drug Allows Travelers Be at 'Top of Game'

"A lot of people identify with individuals who travel on short trips abroad," she said.

They are seeking FDA approval only for eastbound travel.

The company-run trial that Miller participated in revealed some benefits, he said. There was some evidence of side effects for other participants, including headaches and nausea, according to the company.

Nuvigil Tested on a Group of Travelers

Miller, an IT consultant from New York City, was one of 427 adult volunteers to participate in the Nuvigil study.

He spent four days in a sleep lab before boarding a Gulf Stream jet for France to ensure that his sleep patterns were "normal" -- no sleep apnea or other issues that would skew the study.

Once on board, volunteers were not allowed to drink alcohol, coffee or take sleeping pills. They could sleep, but were prevented from tilting their seats back, simulating a commercial economy flight.

After landing in Basil, Switzerland, at 7 a.m., half the volunteers were given Nuvigil and the other half got placebos. They were then whisked away to a French sleep lab for three days of tests.

"They hooked us up with crazy sensors and electrodes on our heads and gave us the drug and we got started," said Miller.

At four intervals during the day they were given a pill, and at the same intervals they were led to a darkened room to fall asleep and have their brain waves monitored. As soon as they slept, they were awakened again.

Those on the placebo fell asleep in an average of 3.4 minutes the first day, 6.2 minutes on the second day and 8.2 minutes on the third.

But those who got the highest dose of Nuvigil stayed awake for an average of 9.7 minutes the first day, 13.8 minutes the second day and 14.8 minutes the third.

The only side effect Miller noticed was jitters.

"I was trying to slide a piece on a jigsaw puzzle and my hands were shaking," he said. "I wouldn't take it for multiple days, but I would take it the first day I landed. Like any good drug, each person reacts differently."

Others reported trouble sleeping, headaches, nausea, palpitations and anxiety.

Any Better Than Coffee?

Many seasoned travelers have already found their own cures for jet lag -- coffee, sleeping pills and nutritional supplements like melatonin, a controversial hormone that can be taken in the days preceding travel.

But some research shows that if travelers miscalculate the right time to take melatonin, it actually makes jet lag worse.

"Realistically, you can't start to change to a new time zone before you leave," said Bill Ashton, founder of the Palo Alto, Calif.-based company Stop Jet Lag. "You have too much going on."

Ashton, whose familiarity with jet lag began in the 1970s as manager for the globe-trotting Al Stewart Band, developed software that creates tailor-made plans for travelers, taking into consideration their flight times and destinations.

Jet Lag Can Be Avoided Naturally

For $35,StopJetLag provides a personal profile that suggests when to sleep, avoid or seek bright light and even what to eat. The plan is based on the scientific work of the late Dr. Charles Ehret, director of Circadian Rhythms and Neurobiological Chronobiology at Argonne National Labs.

As for popping a pill, Ashton, 61, said "I think it's very hard for one thing to do it all."

Other critics say that using a drug to treat jet lag is just another example of medicalizing a natural condition.

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