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The Car Ride Sleepiness Phenomenon

By Chris Brown

For some, riding in a car as a passenger means inevitably ending up asleep. The allure of car dozing is a relatively universal experience, especially on long car rides. But why does a car ride create such a strong pull towards dreamland? And is it healthy to indulge in it as a passenger? There are several physical reasons why a car ride is so conducive for falling asleep and why giving into the urge to mid-drive nap as a passenger is actually healthy.

Vibrations of the Road Lull You To Sleep 

Research has shown evidence that the brain quickly becomes synchronized to repetitive vibration patterns. This synchronization can facilitate the early stages of sleep and lead you to dreamland. In a recent study, volunteers were put into two rooms for an hour, one with vibrations and the other without. In the vibration room, sleepiness set in after only 15 minutes whereas the other did not experience the same level of drowsiness for the entire hour. Combine the rest of the car ride experience with these soothing road vibrations and remaining awake can seem like a hopeless proposition.

Monotony and Lower Stimulus Quiets the Brain

Unless it's filled with work or activities, car rides add periods of monotony to an otherwise hyper-stimulating world. As the constant entertainment and stimulus increases in our daily lives, the sudden break of the open road may cause the brain to shut down into sleep mode. This vacation from the stresses of adult life is very healthy for resetting the brain. Even if you don't fall asleep, a beneficial phenomenon called highway hypnosis may set in. Highway hypnosis is where the monotony of the road facilitates a form of hypnosis. While highway hypnosis can be dangerous for drivers, this absorbed attention state can be helpful for passengers' anxiety, depression, chronic pain, and overall well-being.

The White Noise of the Road

Sleep advocates recommend using white noise for those who have trouble falling asleep in silent or overly noisy environments. The live white noise of driving, especially on roads with no traffic, can be the perfect solution for certain individuals to catch some much needed deep rest.  

Health Reasons to Give into Your Car Ride Sleepiness

If you are tempted to snooze immediately upon sitting in the passenger seat, it may be indicative that you are sleep deprived. Oftentimes, adults are forced to stay awake all day long running errands and work tasks, even if they got minimal sleep the night before. A car ride as a passenger can grant a much needed period that doesn't require one's full attention. So, take advantage of the time and treat your body to the midday rest it is craving. You likely need it.

To learn more about your health, wellness and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Bloomington, Minn.

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