World Sleep Day: Over 1 in 3 struggle to sleep in car

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Research carried out by car manufacturer Citroën for World Sleep Day (19th March 2021) shows that more than a third of passengers struggle to sleep in a car. The findings come from a study of 2,000 UK motorists.

The research was carried out with the support of leading sleep behaviour and environment expert, James Wilson, also known as The Sleep Geek. The study found 37% of passengers said they struggled to fall asleep in a car, while 14% said they never sleep on the move.

More than half of all respondents (55%) said comfortable seats make it easier to fall asleep, while a smooth ride and ample legroom were highlighted by 49% and 26% of respondents respectively. Neck and head support, as well as optimum interior temperature and ambience, were highlighted by 24% of all surveyed.

Unsurprisingly, motorways and dual carriageways were found to be the most tranquil setting for passengers, with 67% of respondents falling asleep on those types of roads.

While the length of a nap depends very much on the journey, Wilson advises that passengers should sleep for no longer than 30 minutes at a time on a car journey in order to feel the full benefit and to be well-rested. The research by Citroën found that, on average, passengers need just over 1hr 15 minutes on the road before they can nod off.

And although some drivers may get disgruntled when their passengers nod off, Citroën’s research found that two thirds (66%) are not really that bothered if their travelling companions fall asleep during a journey. For those drivers who prefer passengers to remain awake, the main causes of annoyance were being left without anybody to talk to and the distraction of snoring.

To help passengers struggling to sleep on car journeys, Citroën has come up with a formula that aims to provide passengers with the Optimum In-Car Sleep (OICS): Optimum In-Car Sleep = C (SP, T, A, L, S) – R

Within the formula, Comfort (C) is a function of Seating Position (SP), Time (T), internal Ambiance (A), Legroom (L) and Suspension (S), while external distractions such as road noise and bumps are characterised by the function (R).

Research by Citroën UK shows that  comfortable seating and a smooth ride are the most important factors helping passengers catch ‘forty winks’ on car journeys.
37% of those surveyed said they struggled to fall asleep as a passenger in a car.
Citroën’s research reveals optimum conditions needed for an in-car nap
Study carried out in time for World Sleep Day – Friday 19 March – with support of sleep behaviour and environment expert James ‘The Sleep Geek’ Wilson .

Says The Sleep Geek James Wilson:

“The research provided us with interesting findings, particularly in regards to how difficult some people find it to nap as a passenger in a car, equally something I have come across throughout my work. Ensuring one’s comfort when sleeping is key and working with Citroën to put together a formula that gets people to think about their in-car sleep comfort is something that lots of people will find useful.

“We can often struggle to find time for a power nap, so the car can be an ideal place. Being able to catch a 30-minute power nap during the day, when it’s possible, is really beneficial and can certainly help people to feel reinvigorated.”

Eurig Druce, Managing Director of Citroën UK, said: “With more than a third of passengers struggling to fall asleep in a car, comfort plays a key role in creating an environment where passengers can doze off for a quick power nap. Our research shows some of the optimal conditions to achieve a comfortable sleep environment, with our cars designed for maximum comfort and well-being.”

5 tips for in-car power naps

To aid passengers looking to achieve the most comfortable in-car power nap, James Wilson provides his five top tips:

  1. Perfect timing: When napping, whether in a car or elsewhere, try to do it before 2.00pm.
  2. Optimum duration: When napping in a car or somewhere else, we need to be trying to sleep for no more than 30 minutes. Napping for longer than this is more likely to make us feel less sleepy at night and also for us to wake up feeling groggy.
  3. Seat comfort: The biggest complaint for many of us when waking from a nap on a journey is that we have a stiff neck or back. A comfortable, well-padded seat, the correct seating position and a supportive headrest helps to keep our neck in a neutral position and allows us to avoid aches and pains.
  4. Set the tone: To fall asleep we need a drop in heart rate and a relaxing environment. Travelling in a vehicle with a smooth ride and listening to something soothing in the car is a great way to let our minds wander. Try a podcast, a spoken book or music of less than 60 beats per minute. Using headphones also allows us to retreat into our own little world.
  5. Stretch out: Having plenty of legroom will make sure our bodies are comfortable and will ensure we don’t wake from a nap feeling physically cramped and uncomfortable.
Chris Price
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