What makes you...zzz...sleep?

Amanda snoozing in a moving car
DO you fall asleep moments after you board a moving vehicle? If so you can blame it on the rocking rhythm that's reminiscent of your comfy cradle, the cozy air-conditioning hum or other factors like fatigue or food that inevitably induce sleep, but I don't want any shut-eye. Maybe it's an occupational hazard but I choose to stay awake to take in the sights rather than catch 40 winks and miss out on rare and interesting vistas along the route.

Travelling in a coach on a recent travel assignment abroad, I noticed how everyone dozed off as we cruised en route to places of interest. Very often the only other persons awake were the driver, his assistant and the tour guide. This was fine by me because if I spotted anything curious and have questions, the guide who was a well of information, kept me enthralled with interesting insights and juicy snippets of folklore and local practices. I thought the others missed so much while they were in "dreamland" but I guess they probably couldn't help dozing off in the comfortable coach.

Unlike them, my Aunt Annie is what I call a "yawner" because every time she got into the car, she will start yawning, not only once but always in a series of yawns. I don't take offence because now I know she's one of those who just can't help yawning each time she is in a moving vehicle. I have read theories that people yawn due to a lack of oxygen so I guess yawners are only attempting to introduce a rush of oxygen into their bodies.

However, I noticed that many people who attend conferences, meetings, talks and even church, often lack oxygen. In fact, some people end up "agreeing" with what the speaker or preacher was saying because their bowed heads seem to nod in agreement every now and then!

It's amazing how some people can doze off anywhere and in any position -- in a moving vehicle, in waiting areas, on an upright chair or even while standing in a queue!  Maybe they are just snatching a "power nap" because my Aunt Polly is one such advocate of afternoon "power naps". She will slip into a silent doze, while sitting in the company of a noisy crowd and wake up minutes later, refreshed and ready for the next activity.

Baby Andrew comfortably asleep on a chair
When children are tired, they simply shutdown and sink into blissful sleep, oblivious to their position, the place or people around them.  Ask any parent and they will tell you that very often it just takes a favourite smelly pillow or bolster, a full stomach and a handy thumb to put the child to sleep instantly.

If you have an important meeting or appointment in the afternoon, its best to avoid an Indian banana leaf lunch of rice with curry because it's a sure sleep inducer. 

As the meal warms your stomach and slowly digests, it's difficult to keep those drooping eyelids up and focus on what's happening around you. Coupled with several voices droning in your ears and the comfort of your cozy chair, in no time you'll be heading off to La-La Land!

Brendon is blissfully asleep on a chair!
Those who have the habit of catching a "cat nap" have honed it into a fine art so that nobody suspects that they have drifted into a doze.  Watch out for these clever "cat-nappers" who steal some sleep while sitting very still with head bowed, eyes shut and hands holding something in pretense. But habitual cat-nappers, check if a string of drool drips from your mouth and snorers beware lest an involuntary snore escapes you!

Some people can only sleep when they are stretched out and lying horizontal but sleep comes so easily to some.  My sister said that when she and her husband went on a Europe tour with several other couples, the ladies shared a giggle when their men slept soundly in the flight. Even while they were tickled by it, they wondered if other passengers were amused or annoyed because the cabin was filled with a symphony of snores!

For many, reading just puts them to sleep. So, if you managed to read to the end of this page, you're all right. But to help you relax and unwind after a hectic day, read something light -- nothing too exciting -- and after a while, your eyelids will become too heavy to hold up because you have to (yawn!) zzz...sleep.

This article was first published in The New Straits Times, Johor Streets on 30 March 2010

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