Does the car help you fall asleep?

According to a study by Citroën, 44% of parents have already used a car trip to put their baby to sleep. A numbing effect that some adults also claim to experience. Where does this connection between sleep and car come from? Is it the same in an electric? Lighting by L’argus.

By

Raphael Desrosiers

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Properly installed in their seat, most children fall asleep more easily in the car.

DR


Weighted blankets, gadgets that allow you to synchronize your breathing, calming tablets… The market for accessories to find sleep is not experiencing a crisis. Especially with parents of young children, who sometimes find it difficult to get their offspring to sleep. Some have their own tricks. At least that is what a study carried out by Citroën in March and April 2022 among 2,000 parent drivers with babies/children under 5 reveals. No fewer than 44% of them said they had already taken their child for a short drive to help him sleep. A practice that is not really economical with the prices of fuel and electricity constantly increasing. According to a study conducted by Nissan in 2020, this practice would add almost 70 kg of CO22* a household’s annual CO2 footprint.

Why does the car fall asleep?

This numbing effect of cars has been little studied, but it would come from the sounds that reach the cabin. Of course, not those from traffic horns or sirens from priority vehicles, but those emitted by the engine (when there is one) or the bearing. Sounds muffled by the insulation of the cabin and which would have the same effect as the famous white noises. The latter is praised for facilitating sleep for both adults and children thanks to their frequency, which would cause sedation. In reality, there is no scientific proof on this subject, but specialists recognize the ability of these sounds to drown out others.

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Almost every second parent has already taken their child in the car just to get him to sleep.

DR

Thomas Andrillon, researcher in neuroscience, summarizes well the state of knowledge on the subject in an interview with Slate: White noise is sound that is equally composed of different frequency bands in the auditory spectrum. It is called white by analogy with white light, which is the result of superposition of the different colors of the auditory spectrum. When we present white noise, we will thus uniformly activate the hair cells in the inner ear. The direct effect of white noise is to increase the basal activity of the inner ear. Other sounds will therefore have more difficulty being absorbed by it (and routed to the brain). White noise can therefore help drown out sounds that can disturb sleep. »

Less reassuring electrics and hybrids?

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nissan leaf lullaby

To compensate for the silence of electric cars, in 2020 Nissan had proposed a playlist of lullabies that record the frequency of white noise.

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The numbing aspect of car travel for passengers would therefore come from the absence of sound disturbances, which also explains why it is easier to fall asleep during a trip on the motorway than in the city, or in a thermomobile than in an electric one. Which had also caused Nissan to release in 2020 a playlist of lullabies to use in his el. The Citroën study nevertheless highlights that 56.4% of respondents who have recently changed their petrol or diesel car to a hybrid or electric one declare that their child falls asleep as well or even better than in their previous car. It declares just under 12%, however their child fell asleep more easily when lulled by the purr of an internal combustion engine. These parents’ sentiments also state that a smooth ride, a comfortable temperature and a comfortable seat are the most important factors in helping their children fall asleep.

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