The Ultimate Newbie Guide to Thailand

The Journey and Jetlag

For most traveling to Thailand it also means a long journey ranging from 10 hours to 24 hours, including stopovers. This may call for a bit of planning in advance and attending to time and behavior during the journey to limit jetlag and make the best of the flight, especially if flying economy. BTW, most carriers with long haul flights now offer premium economy which feature (generally) 4-6 inches more legroom and improved recline for a little more money. Some airlines also add other improvements to this class.

There isn't a single set of suggestions or an outline that will work for all, but there are some common elements that do work for most and to the extend possible adhere as best you can.
Below are three topics ... awake time, managing jetlag, and sleep time. Although they do dovetail with each other they are addressed separately.

Awake time (during journey). Some people just cannot sleep on a plane, or may have difficulty doing so. Therefore you should plan on what to do with all this time. Many airlines now feature audio and video on demand (not all)  and that is a good start in passing the time. You may also consider bringing you own entertainment whether it being a book, MP3, DVD, computer, etc.
If you find yourself with a long layover somewhere do enquire with the airline as to the cost of a pass to their business class lounge. Such passes cost between $25 and $50 per day and will generally provide you a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere, free drinks, food/snacks, Internet access and in some cases a shower.

Jetlag. The more time zones you cross and the longer the journey the greater the chance that jetlag will affect on you. Below are some steps that can help you minimize the effects in adjusting to a new time zone. Some may seem contradictory to the mission, but adhering to some is better than none.

  1. jetlag_03.jpg (62111 bytes)Start the adjusting your biological clock several days before departure. For example Thailand is 6 hours ahead of most of Europe in which case you may want to gradually wake up 30 minutes earlier each day and over the course of 6 days you then have gained 1/2 the difference. A person living on the west coast in North America will experience the clock set back by 9 hours (actually ahead by 15, but forget the weekday). Same method but going to bed later and later every night.

  2. Dehydration during flight has a great effect on jetlag, so lots of water for a couple of days before travel and water available during flight. As disappointing as it may be alcohol also increases dehydration and concerning jetlag is not a friend and at high altitude has a greater effect than on the ground.

  3. Get as much sleep as possible especially as it coincides with normal sleep time at the destination. One trick is to set your watch to the new time zone as soon as you are on the plane. More on sleep time during flight below.

  4. jetlag_04.jpg (167786 bytes)Once you have arrived the resetting of the biological clock continues. Never sleep during the day (or the time you normally want to be awake), do not take a nap. Instead drink beverages containing caffeine, get plenty of sunlight and some level of exercise (e.g. a nice walk), but the more aerobic the better.

  5. If you are not tired come desired sleep time Melatonin is nature's sleeping pill. Take 1 to 3 mg just before bedtime (over the counter in most countries). Other chemical remedies for sleep should be in consultation with your doctor or if over the counter taken with care.

  6. Being in a dark and quiet room facilitates deep, restful sleep. Unless you can't make the room very dark, use sleep shades. Quiet is also important so use ear plugs when necessary.

  7. Dehydration makes all of the symptoms of jet lag worse. Make sure you have an adequate fluid intake. If your urine isn't very pale in color, drink more water!

Sleep-time (during flight). This is a tough one for some and may come easy for others. Here are some suggestions that may help. Some suggestions include the use of chemicals and in that case a consultation with a doctor is advised, especially when mixing chemicals or when administering prescription drugs.

  1. If you are able, skipping the last night of sleep and arrive at the airport sleep deprived may help you get some sleep on the plane.

  2. If you are able to sleep on the plane (chemicals or not) and want to take advantage of the duration you may choose to have a meal in the airport and skip the airline food

  3. Darkness and quiet holds true here as well. Bring a pair of shades and earplugs.

  4. Melatonin is especially useful if you want to sleep in daytime or outside normal sleep time.

  5. Over the counter sleeping aids may be an option and certain varieties labeled "PM" are readily available. This may include Tylenol PM, Ibuprofen PM, etc.

  6. Some doctors will prescribe alprazolam (Xanax) as an off label remedy as it has certain benefits over other drugs. First, it is really not a sleeping pill but makes you drowsy. Should a need arise during flight where you must wake up is is not much of an inhibitor. Second, it has a relatively short half-life meaning it will not affect you for days like Valium can. AGAIN you must consult with a doctor first.

  7. Aspirin will not directly help you sleep, but may be of benefit as it can help prevent blood clots forming when sitting still for a long time and consequently help reduce restless leg syndrome caused by poor circulation. 75-100 mg each of three days before flight and 300 mg the day of the flight should do the job

Some searches that may be of interest:
Jet Lag - Minimizing & Managing Jet Lag
Managing Jetlag - Google Search

The Ultimate Newbie
Guide to Thailand