That moment when you book your flight to Thailand is a wonderful feeling. You can start looking forward to the warm weather, fabulous food and amazing destinations waiting for you. The only minor drawback is the potential for a bit of jet lag. That’s a small price to pay for a holiday in Thailand and there are steps you can take to minimise the effects of jet lag. While everybody reacts differently, try these practical tips on your trip to Thailand.
Why do we get jet lag?
When you fly to or from Thailand you cross multiple time zones and your circadian rhythm (internal ‘body clock’) can be thrown out of sync and disturb your normal sleep pattern. For many people, the effects of jet lag are worse when travelling west to east on the outward flight to Thailand. Thailand is seven hours ahead of GMT which means you are, in effect, losing hours because you are getting ahead of time.
Before you go
The main ways to alleviate jet lag start in the days ahead of your flight. Make sure you are well-rested and relaxed in the lead-up to your trip. Being organised with your travel arrangements helps to alleviate any pre-trip stress.
Whether you opt for a daytime or nighttime flight depends on individual preference. If you don’t sleep well on planes, you may feel better on arrival if you avoid an overnight flight.
Try to select your seat in advance so you get your preferred aisle or window position. If you want to get some sleep, you may want to avoid the seats around the galley areas and towards the back of the plane which can be noisier with people congregating there.
Downloading a jet lag app for your smartphone may help. An app like Calm may also help you to be more relaxed and sleep better in the lead-up to your trip. Calm has put together several tips for beating jet lag here. The app also includes Thailand content to help you dream about the Land of Smiles!
During your flight
- Set your watch to Thailand time when you board your flight
- Sleep on the plane according to the new time zone
- Keep hydrated
- Eat light meals
- Avoid caffeine and alcohol
- Move around and stretch at least every few hours
Once you board your flight, setting your watch to Thai time (seven hours ahead of GMT) can be helpful in the fight against jet lag. If you plan to sleep on the flight, try to do it according to the time in Thailand. It’s easier said than done, but it does make a difference.
Lower humidity on planes makes it more important to keep hydrated. It might be boring advice, but avoiding alcohol and caffeine and drinking plenty of water instead before and during the flight does help with jet lag.
Try to eat light before and during your flight. Digestion can slow down and with the body not moving much it’s not unusual for people to feel bloated on long-haul flights.
With a 12-hour flight ahead of you, it makes sense to try and make yourself as comfortable as possible. Wear loose-fitting, light clothing. Eye masks, travel pillows, and earplugs or noise-cancelling headphones can all be helpful.
Put a refillable water bottle in your cabin bag. Keeping it topped up during the flight also provides the opportunity to get up and stretch your legs.
Blue light from your tablet or mobile device can interrupt the body’s circadian rhythm and harm sleep quality. Try to limit your screen time on the flight.
Should I take medication?
Medication isn’t normally needed for jet lag with most travellers shaking off the effects within a few days. Some people recommend sleeping pills or melatonin tablets for jet lag, but this is not recommended by the NHS and you should seek professional medical advice first.
Arriving in Thailand
- Adjust to the new time zone as soon as possible
- Go to bed at a time as close to possible as ‘normal’ for you and don’t oversleep. Eight hours of sleep will be more beneficial than twelve.
- Get sunlight and fresh air to help reset your body clock
- Stay active and try to avoid long naps during the day
Even if you take all the steps to avoid jet lag, the flight can take it out of you. It takes time to adjust, not just to the time zone, but also to the Thai weather. The good news is that sunlight and fresh air help reset the body clock. Take advantage of this if you arrive in Thailand during daylight hours and go for a walk outside instead of sleeping in your room. If you’re staying in Bangkok, head to any of the city’s parks. The pick is the wonderful Benjakitti Forest Park, but you’ll also find relaxing green spaces at Lumpini Park (connected with a walkway to Benjakitti), and Benchasiri Park on Sukhumvit Road (adjacent to Phrom Phong BTS Skytrain station).
Take a short daytime nap if you need one, but try to avoid sleeping for more than 30 minutes. Any longer and it can stop you from falling asleep properly at night and prolong the impact of jet lag.
At the risk of repeating ourselves and stating the obvious, keep hydrated. You’ll need to drink more water in Thailand than you normally would in the UK or Ireland.
You’ll probably want to make the most of every hour you have in Thailand, but try to resist the urge to pack in too many activities for the first day and night you are there. Relax, get a good night’s sleep and you should be raring to go the following day.
On your first full day in Thailand, a traditional Thai massage can be a great way to get rid of any aches from the flight. Or book a spa treatment with a steam sauna. Get some exercise whether it’s hitting the hotel gym or going for a long walk. Exposure to sunlight helps the body clock to reset so get outside, explore the local neighbourhood, eat well and drink plenty of water.
Flying back from Thailand
For most travellers flying back from Thailand to the UK or Ireland, the effects of jet lag are less acute on the return journey. Much of the same advice applies for the return journey although getting lots of sunlight might not be as easy when you are back home as it is in Thailand!
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