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New Study Reveals that Car Vibrations Are Another Trigger for Drowsy Driving

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Photo: Waymo

While drowsy driving definitely poses a safety risk, it turns out that running low on sleep is just one trigger that causes drivers to feel tired while driving. According to new research from RMIT University in Australia, the innate motion of a vehicle can contribute to feeling sleepy while behind the wheel.

Stephen Robinson, one of the researchers on the team, articulates the results of the data. “Our study shows steady vibrations at low frequencies — the kind we experience when driving cars and trucks — progressively induce sleepiness even among people who are well rested and healthy.”

The study surveyed 15 volunteers hooked up to virtual simulators. The team tested the participants twice, once with no vibration then again with low-frequency 4-7 Hz vibrations. Next, the team measured each participant’s heart rate variability (HRV) over a 60-minute period. This measurement indicates an individual’s drowsiness level, since it shows the body’s physical tweaks as the central nervous system shifts into drowsy mode.

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After just 15 minutes, the participants started to feel sleepy, as the monitors in the experiment confirmed. The individuals continued to grow sleepier until the testing period ended.

According to the research team, it seems that the human brain syncs to the car’s vibrations, which transitions the body to enter the early stages of sleep. This would also help explain the strange phenomenon of a whole car-full of travelers feeling sleepy during a road trip, for no apparent reason.

Despite the limits of the experiment (e.g. testing such a limited range of frequencies), this study brings us one step closer to understanding the potential reasons that many people feel sleepy when they’re riding in a vehicle. And why some people resort to high-tech gadgets like this one, to help them stay alert when driving on long distances.

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News Source: ScienceAlert