How Do People Nap On The Bus?

Public transportation has its perks and its drawbacks, but one of best things about it is that it frees you up to do other things on your commute… like sleep. Catching some extra zzz’s on the bus can be dangerous, however: what if you miss your stop? For most people who habitually nap on the bus or train, this isn’t a problem; they magically wake up at their exact stop and hop off the bus! How does this work?

One theory is that, in the same way that you may wake up a minute or two before the time that your alarm goes off every morning, commute-nappers are tuned to the exact time that they’re supposed to exit the train. They’ve basically conditioned their mind to snap to attention at or slightly before it arrives at their stop. Therefore, if the train were delayed, they would wake up at the right moment, because the clock would be off.

However, this might not be the case. It could be that your body uses an oral cue to wake up, just like an alarm. Instead of the distinctive ring of an alarm, however, the trigger is the conductor announcing the correct stop. Most unimportant sounds and stimuli are screened out while we’re sleeping, but through repetition, the brain can learn that the sound of the stop IS important, and thus can wake you up when it recognizes it.

Either way, the brain is not always foolproof. You may think you’re really good about waking up at the right time to hop off at your stop, but just like people sleep through their alarms periodically, one day you may slip up and wake up in a strange spot! Our recommendation? Set an alarm on your phone as a backup!