Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Louise Carter
Have you ever dozed off on the bus or train while commuting to work? If so, you’re not alone. Many people fall asleep on public transport, even if they’re not tired, especially on a long journey.
This isn’t limited to public transportation. Many people fall asleep in cars, even if they feel sick or have trouble sleeping. Factors that could be applicable include the following:
- Fatigue and tiredness.
- White noise.
- Sopite syndrome.
Some people are less prone to these factors than others, just as some are likelier to feel nauseous in a moving vehicle. There are psychological and physical components.
Falling asleep in a moving vehicle has different implications for your body and the day ahead.
Why Do I Feel Sleepy On the Bus?
There are two main reasons for feeling sleepy on a bus, train, or other form of transport:
If you seldom fall asleep on buses but doze off quickly when you do, it’s likely due to sleep deprivation. The likelihood of falling asleep on public transport is affected by the following factors:
Many studies have highlighted the importance of temperature for sleep and sleep quality. According to Frontiers in Neuroscience, warmth is often a gate or trigger for sleep.
This is due to how mammalian bodies cool at certain points in the body’s circadian cycle. Furthermore, being very warm can cause drowsiness because the body uses energy to cool itself.
Comfort plays a significant role in our ability to sleep well. However, when sleep-deprived or particularly tired, we may find it easier to sleep in less comfortable positions, like sitting upright.
If you get a comfortable seat on a bus when exhausted, the likelihood of falling asleep increases.
Boredom and protracted periods of inactivity induce drowsiness and sleep. The lower level of stimuli can make it easy to descend into sleep.
There is also highway hypnosis. This can occur during long journeys in a relatively bland landscape (for example, on a highway), where a lack of stimulation leads to a trance-like state.
What if you habitually fall asleep on the bus, regardless of how much sleep you had the night before? Then, you may have a neurological condition called sopite syndrome.
What Is Sopite Syndrome?
Sopite syndrome is a less-understood neurological disorder connected to motion sickness and sleepiness during transport. According to Acta Astronautica, sopite syndrome can include symptoms such as:
- Mood swings.
The study also notes that sopite syndrome is distinct from motion sickness, despite sharing some symptoms. Simulating transport conditions can also trigger sopite syndrome.
Additionally, Human Factors found a link between sopite syndrome and lower multitasking abilities.
Sopite syndrome is an issue for most people, but the symptoms are severe for some. For example, while many people may feel the effects of sopite syndrome as passengers, few will experience them as drivers.
Of course, long journeys and extreme fatigue can increase the severity of sopite syndrome symptoms. The worst outcome for people with sopite syndrome (injury or fatality) occurs due to accidents.
For example, someone experiencing severe sopite syndrome is at risk of falling asleep behind the wheel on long journeys. This can, of course, have life-threatening consequences.
What Happens if You Fall Asleep on The Bus?
If you fall asleep on a bus, your awareness of the world around you drops, and you’ll enter a sleep cycle. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke indicates that, during sleep, your:
- Body temperature will fall, partly due to inactivity.
- Breathing and heart rate slow down.
- The muscles relax.
- Certain hormone levels change.
However, sleeping on a bus or train will make it hard to get a satisfying sleep. Bumps on the road, noise, and the uncomfortable nature of sleeping upright are likely to lead to:
- Broken sleep.
- Increased stress levels.
- Feelings of nausea.
This can be unpleasant and make you feel worse in the long term. While stressful, falling asleep on the bus isn’t necessarily dangerous in and of itself.
Is Falling Asleep on Public Transport Safe?
Sleeping on public transport sometimes carries risks. However, this is rarely connected to the nature of sopite syndrome or another cause of sleep.
Most of the dangers associated with sleeping on public transport come from environmental factors orother people on public transport.
One risk associated with sleeping on public transport that doesn’t involve other passengers is falling.
Depending on where you’re sitting, the normal turbulence caused by navigation may cause you to fall out of your seat.
Of course, this is more likely on a bus than on a train due to the tight corners and likelihood of potholes on poorly maintained roads.
The other dangers associated with sleeping on a public bus or train are:
- Legal issues.
When potential victims are asleep, intoxicated, or otherwise in a reduced state of alertness, there is an increased risk of:
- Sexual harassment.
- Personal assault.
The risk level isn’t the same everywhere, as some places are more dangerous than others.
How To Avoid Falling Asleep on The Bus
Have you developed a habit of falling asleep on the bus? If so, there are steps you can take:
The most straightforward approach is to stand, not sit. However, this isn’t always an option because some bus companies insist on passengers being seated.
Reduce Your Temperature And Sit Uncomfortably
If you can’t stand to prevent sleep on long journeys, your approach to staying awake should be twofold. The physical component involves:
- Body positioning.
- Temperature regulation.
Try to sit upright rather than lean. Also, open a window or remove your sweater or jacket to lower your temperature. If you do this, you’ll considerably reduce the likelihood of falling asleep.
The psychological aspect of preventing drowsiness involves preventing boredom and keeping the mind moving. A lack of things to do is a common factor in drowsiness when traveling.
Keep yourself occupied and stimulate the brain. To stay alert, do the following:
- Read a book.
- Play puzzles.
- Listen to music.
These activities can help you stay awake by stimulating the mind, using problem-solving skills, or giving you something to focus on. They’re also relatively easy to do on public transport, as they:
- Don’t take up a large amount of space.
- It can be done in short bursts.
- Won’t be disruptive to the people around you.
Whatever you do, choose something you find enjoyable. This ensures that it’s easy to maintain focus. With these tips, staying awake on the bus should be easier.