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Sleeping on Planes, Trains and Automobiles

A story recently appeared in the magazine Advertising Age, which caters to marketing executives. It reported on an ingenius targeted advertising campaign that was recently launched on behalf of the fast food chain Burger King in Seoul, South Korea. Apparently, when looking at the list of countries that are most sleep deprived, South Korea ranks pretty near the top, and the city of Seoul is among the worst affected in the country. As a result, commuters often attempt to make up for lost sleep while they are riding the subway in the morning, especially because the city’s workers have a reputation for having extremely long commutes.

In response to this, Burger King’s advertising agency, Cheil Worldwide, distributed sleep masks to subway riders passing through the city’s five largest subway stations. The exterior side of the mask asked a passenger’s fellow riders to please awaken them at the appropriate train station so that they didn’t sleep through their stop. The interior side of the mask was printed with two coupons for free coffee so that the passenger wearing the mask could use one, and provide the other to the passenger who had been courteous enough to wake them. Not only was the campaign effective, increasing morning sales at the food outlets by 18.7 percent in the month that it ran, but there was a huge amount of buzz generated on social media too, as people photographed each other wearing the masks and posted them online. Plus there was the added bonus of allowing those commuters the luxury of being a bit more relaxed as they took their subway ride to work. As it turns out, the Organization for Economic Development did a comparative study of eighteen different countries and found that those living in south Korea had only 469 minutes of sleep per day – that’s 35 minutes less than the average of all of the other countries.

If you use your commute to grab a bit of extra sleep, then you can truly appreciate how appealing the advertising campaign was — and you might be able to use some help yourself with getting the most of your ride to and from work. Here are some helpful hints that have been shared by commuters who are in the same boat as you for how to get the most out of your morning commute.

  1. Focus on relaxing. One of the biggest problems with trying to sleep in public is that you are always aware of your surroundings, and this can get in the way of your being able to truly rest. Spend a minute or two taking some deep breaths and clear your mind of worry and stress.
  2. If you can, wear your glasses on the subway, bus or train and don’t put your contacts in until you get to work. Sleeping with your contacts in risks your eyes being red and dry when you wake up, and sleeping without them in is far more comfortable.
  3. Make sure that you have really good sleeping music downloaded onto your iPhone or smart phone that will not only block out exterior noise, but also allow you to drift off peacefully. Having a playlist set aside specifically for sleeping is a great idea – select tunes that you find soothing and familiar, as there have been scientific studies that show that if the music you listen to is new then your brain will stay active and try to pay attention to the unfamiliar sound. The more you listen to your sleep playlist and become used to falling asleep to it, the more quickly you will find that you are able to fall asleep as soon as it turns on.
  4. Invest in a pair of noise canceling headphones that will block out all of the sounds of your fellow riders, including crying babies, smart phone conversations that are difficult to ignore, and announcements of every single station between when you board and it’s time for you to disembark. Just make sure that you have somebody around to make sure that you’re awake to get off when you need to, or set yourself an alarm.
  5. Wear clothing that is as comfortable as is possible considering that you are heading in to work. Some commuters actually wear soft, loose clothing on the train as though they are headed to the gym, then get changed at the office once they get there. Dressing in layers is also a good idea, as you can never tell when the subway is going to be too cold, too hot, or just right.
  6. Invest in a comfortable travel pillow that fits into your briefcase or work tote. They make inflatable versions that can be stowed completely flat. Many people have found that the trick to successful use of these is to wear it backwards, with the opening in the back. This allows full support of your head in the front and side, which is where you are most likely to lean once you’ve fallen asleep.
  7. If you have made friends with anybody who takes the same trip as you each day, or even better if you actually ride in to work with somebody that you know, then sit with them. Not only will you feel safer and more comfortable knowing the person that you trust is sitting next to you, in front of you or behind you, but they will also be the most likely to make sure that you’re awake when your stop is a few minutes away.
  8. Purchase a sleep mask. I know that it makes it extremely obvious that you are purposely sleeping on the train, but it will help a lot if you really want to get to sleep, and it also makes it clear to people who are sitting around you that you are purposely sleeping so that maybe they’ll behave a little more sensitively and lower their voices a bit.sl
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