Revealed! The real reason a crying baby will keep you awake on a plane

Ruth Doherty
Revealed! The real reason a crying baby will keep you awake on a plane
Revealed! The real reason a crying baby will keep you awake on a plane


New research has revealed that there is a scientific reason why the sound of a baby crying will keep you awake on a plane - and, no, it's not just because it's really, really annoying.

No, the study has found that crying babies are almost impossible to ignore because our brain instantly reacts to the sound of them in distress, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Even without children of our own, we have an emotional reaction to the sounds of a baby's screams, leading researchers to believe we developed an acute response to the noise to allow us to react faster to their needs.

Scientists from Oxford University scanned the brains of 30 childless people while they listened to recordings of babies and adults crying as well as other animal distress noises, like dogs whining and cats mewing.

Their results revealed that when the baby sounds were being played, participants had significantly higher activity levels in two regions of the brain linked to the processing of emotions.

Dr Christine Parsons, a scientist involved in the research, spoke at the Society for Neuroscience annual conference in New Orleans, and said: "The study was in people who were not parents and had no particular experience looking after babies, and yet they are all responding at 100 milliseconds to these particular sounds, so this might be a fundamental response present in all of us regardless of parental status.

"When you a hear a baby on a plane you are immediately alert - it is one of those sounds it is very difficult to ignore, and it might facilitate us in responding quickly at a time when you really need to."

She added: "The sound of a baby crying is something that really captures your attention in a way that few other sounds in the environment generally do.

"What our study suggests is that there is something special about the way that babies sound that means that quite complex characteristics...of a baby cry seem to be processed much earlier."

Just last month, budget airline AirAsia announced it is to offer a child-free 'quite zone' on its long-haul flights from February 2013.

The Southeast Asian airline will reserve the first seven economy class rows 'exclusively for guests age 12 and above', NBC News reports.

And the new option won't cost you more than the regular fee charged for seats with extra legroom.

The section, which is separated by bulkheads and toilets on one side of the coach and has the premium cabin with mostly adult travellers on the other side, means that passengers opting to sit in the Quiet Zone are likely to be far from babies and young children.

Advertising the new option, AirAsia's website reads: 'Because we know that sometimes all you need is some peace and quiet for a more pleasant journey with us.'

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