I’m sure we’ve all experienced that drowsy, post-lunch state when attending a long meeting, conference or lecture, especially if the room is stuffy and airless. It can be almost impossible to keep our eyes open in those situations, hence the recent example of the juror who fell asleep and was snoring so loudly that the judge had to halt the trial and excuse him!
There are a myriad of reasons why someone might fall asleep inappropriately. Stress and overwhelm can sometimes escalate to such an extent that a person mentally walks away into a reverie, falling asleep to escape the situation. Being present in the moment may be too difficult to maintain.
Many of us will have heard of ‘death by Powerpoint’, where a presenter tediously delivers their presentation in a monotone, laboriously reading each slide in turn. It’s very difficult to stay awake, particularly after lunch, and is the reason why many presenters now deliver shorter, interactive sessions, interspersed with break out groups and workshops. A far more effective approach to delivering information!
Recent research by Finnish university, Aalto, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, has revealed that another reason why we become drowsy, yawn and potentially dose off inappropriately, perhaps in a Zoom meeting, is because we don’t feel engaged, especially if we’re not on camera. We’re free to become distracted, multi-task and do other things when there’s no direct focus on us, or we may mentally drift off into a dozy sleep state, perhaps due to feeling irrelevant or immaterial to the meeting, especially if we’re not required to contribute.
The Finnish research followed up with findings from the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, echoing that employees with lower levels of engagement found virtual meetings very tiring. Sitting through a session where we’re feeling pointless or are not experiencing much mental stimulation can result in us detaching and going into an almost zombie-like state. Being required to ‘be present’, as in face-to-face, demands a higher level of involvement, requiring that we keep alert. Mental underload and boredom can cause sleepiness.
People who are highly engaged in their work are able to stay active, interested and participative during virtual meetings, and so, tailoring the agenda to suit the requirements of the target audience helps everyone avoid falling asleep at an inappropriate time or place.
Sleep can offer an escape route from unpleasant or difficult situations.
In fact, parents are often advised that if their child starts to fall asleep so deeply that they’re ‘out of it’, perhaps resulting in them bed-wetting after having been previously dry, it could be a clue that they’re experiencing problems in an area of their lives. They may be experiencing stress, distress or being bullied. It’s a red light which often benefits from monitoring and investigating.
Long car journeys, especially at night on unlit motorways, can be trance or sleep-inducing. Roadway signs on long motorway stretches advise on the importance of stopping for a break. Endless miles of driving in the dark can cause eyelids to droop and become heavy. But, if it’s not possible to stop or share the driving it can help to open the window, put the radio on, maybe singalong to the songs being played or drive in stockinged feet. (In the UK it’s legal to drive barefoot or in flip-flops so long as you’re able to operate the vehicle safely).
However, driving in a dark, warm car is often a welcome solution for parents of a crying child who’s refusing to go to sleep. Many parents have found that driving around for twenty-thirty minutes is an almost guaranteed way to calm a fractious child and soothe them to sleep.
Some medical conditions and the side effects of some medications can result in overwhelming tiredness, sleepiness and result in an inability to stay awake. If you’ve found this to be the case and you’re falling asleep inappropriately, it’s worth arranging a check-up with your family doctor in order to discuss a more suitable treatment regime. Consider, too, the importance of looking after yourself and ensuring you commit to a healthy balanced diet, with plenty of fresh, unprocessed food, minimal sugary drinks and snacks, and a commitment to exercise and fresh air.
A regular sleep pattern is also important, so calculate how much sleep you need in order to awaken feeling refreshed and recharged. Try to ensure that you go to bed at a ‘sensible’ time in order to achieve that outcome. Taking a responsible approach and implementing a good self-care programme, which aims to maintain balance and equilibrium, is a proactive way to support good health and deliver a positive approach to managing stress and wellness.
Doing this helps you to become more fully engaged in your daily life.
Susan Leigh MNCH (ACC)
South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer and media contributor offers help with relationship issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.
She’s author of 3 books, ‘Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact’, ‘101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday’ and ‘Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain’, all on Amazon and with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.
To order a copy or for more information, articles, or to make contact please call 0161 928 7880 or visit www.lifestyletherapy.net