How to manage travel fatigue and jet lag in athletes? A systematic review of interventions

Dina C.Christa Janse Van Rensburg, Audrey Jansen Van Rensburg, Peter Fowler, Hugh Fullagar, David Stevens, Shona Halson, Amy Bender, Grace Vincent, Amanda Claassen-Smithers, Ian Dunican, Gregory Daniel Roach, Charli Sargent, Michele Lastella, Tanita Cronje

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives We investigated the management of travel fatigue and jet lag in athlete populations by evaluating studies that have applied non-pharmacological interventions (exercise, sleep, light and nutrition), and pharmacological interventions (melatonin, sedatives, stimulants, melatonin analogues, glucocorticoids and antihistamines) following long-haul transmeridian travel-based, or laboratory-based circadian system phase-shifts. Design Systematic review Eligibility criteria Randomised controlled trials (RCTs), and non-RCTs including experimental studies and observational studies, exploring interventions to manage travel fatigue and jet lag involving actual travel-based or laboratory-based phase-shifts. Studies included participants who were athletes, except for interventions rendering no athlete studies, then the search was expanded to include studies on healthy populations. Data sources Electronic searches in PubMed, MEDLINE, CINAHL, Google Scholar and SPORTDiscus from inception to March 2019. We assessed included articles for risk of bias, methodological quality, level of evidence and quality of evidence. Results Twenty-two articles were included: 8 non-RCTs and 14 RCTs. No relevant travel fatigue papers were found. For jet lag, only 12 athlete-specific studies were available (six non-RCTs, six RCTs). In total (athletes and healthy populations), 11 non-pharmacological studies (participants 600; intervention group 290; four non-RCTs, seven RCTs) and 11 pharmacological studies (participants 1202; intervention group 870; four non-RCTs, seven RCTs) were included. For non-pharmacological interventions, seven studies across interventions related to actual travel and four to simulated travel. For pharmacological interventions, eight studies were based on actual travel and three on simulated travel. Conclusions We found no literature pertaining to the management of travel fatigue. Evidence for the successful management of jet lag in athletes was of low quality. More field-based studies specifically on athlete populations are required with a multifaceted approach, better design and implementation to draw valid conclusions. PROSPERO registration number The protocol was registered in the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO: CRD42019126852).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)960-968
Number of pages9
JournalBritish Journal of Sports Medicine
Issue number16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2020


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