Sleeping Around the World: Which Country Gets it Right?

Sleep glorious sleep. We spend a full third of our lives doing it but are we doing right?

Join us now on a whistle-stop tour around the world as we have quick look at five different attitudes to sleep from five different countries. Have a read and make your mind up about which country gets sleeping right…

Japan: The Art of the Nap

Let’s start off out East. Welcome to Japan – a paradox of a country; hyper-modern but steeped in tradition, peaceful yet overstimulating, ordered but hectic. Japan’s many contrasts don’t by any means end when it comes to sleep.

With a work culture of long hours and long commutes, Japan is one of the most sleep indebted nations on earth. But while the time spent at home slumbering on a futon may be kept to a minimum, their hyper-busy schedules have seen the Japanese become masters of the public nap.

It is perfectly normal to see anyone – from businessmen and old ladies to school children – fast asleep on the train or bus. And it’s not just on transportation, napping takes place everywhere; on park benches, in meetings, at dinner parties, even standing while in a queue.

So common is the practice it has been given its own name – inemuri – which roughly translates as “to be asleep while present”.

Fortunately for public nappers in Japan there is no taboo attached to inemuri, quite the opposite, in fact, sleeping in public is rather taken as a sign of dedication and diligence than laziness.

Do you often feel a bit sleepy in the middle of the workday? Then maybe Japan is the place for you.

Botswana: Whenever Suits

From the skyscrapers of Japan let us head to the dusty plains of the Kalahari Desert and pay a visit to one of the world’s last remaining hunter-gatherer tribes – The !Kung from Botswana.

Sometimes referred to as Bushmen, the !Kung are most famous for their unique clicking language. Of more interest to us, however, is another less well-known cultural trait ­– their fluid attitude to sleep.

Instead of hitting the sack soon after the sun goes down as many of their neighbours in rural sub-Saharan Africa do, the !Kung bed down to sleep whenever they damn well feel like it, whether that is during the middle of the day, in the evening or in the dead of night.

Living as they do in complete self-sufficiency, as they have for millennia, the !Kung feel no pressure to conform to regular social norms. And why should they? To them, sleep is for when you are tired. Simple as that.

Do you sometimes feel tied down by the regular boring routine of going to bed at night? Then maybe a trip to the !Kung in the Kalahari is in order. Look out for those adorable meerkats on the way!

Spain: The Siesta

Let’s say hola to our friends on the Iberian Peninsula now.

Have you ever found yourself on holiday in Spain wandering through town in the early afternoon wondering if you’ve happened to come across a ghost town? Well listen a little bit closer, you might be able to hear the sound of snoring in the air. That’s because you’ve stumbled upon the famous Spanish siesta; a period between about 2pm and 5pm when businesses close and locals get a little shuteye.

Now, this afternoon napping is not because the Spanish are in any way lazy, far from it, in fact, recent statistics show the Spanish work longer hours annually than both the British and Germans. The siesta is, in fact, a sensible adaptation to cope with the hottest period of the day.

To contend with the sun the traditional Spanish work day is split, with the second half extending well into the evening. This, in turn, pushes evening meals and general socialising deep into the night, when most of the rest of Europe is curled up in bed.

Are you a bit of a night owl? Enjoy an evening fiesta? Well, then the Spanish siesta could be the answer.

Australia: Aboriginal Dreamtime

Let’s head to Australia now. The Land Down Under, also known as the land of snakes, spiders, crocodiles, sharks, stonefish and most worryingly – Jason Donovan! It’s amazing they get any sleep at all with all those potential dangers lurking outside.

It’s precisely because of the amassed perils of the outback that the original inhabitants of the world’s biggest – and deadliest – island, the Australian Aboriginals developed a sleep routine that maximises safety above all else.

Instead of sleeping separately, the Aboriginals wisely sleep in groups. Arranging their mattresses, known locally as ‘swags’ in a long line. With the strongest members of the group taking guard positions at the ends and the old, very young and sickly sleeping safely in the centre.

So, if you are a bit of a worried sleeper, waking frequently, wondering what that noise could be, then the Aboriginal sleeping style could be the way forward for you. Just round up your strongest, bravest friends and family and get them to sleep in a nice protective line around you.

Holland: The Longer the Better

To the land of tulips and windmills now – Holland. Their football team may no longer be much to shout home about but when it comes to getting the most sleep the Dutch come out top of the league.

Researchers used data collected from smartphone apps to determine that the Dutch sleep five minutes longer than the recommended eight hours of sleep a night. Putting them just ahead of New Zealand and France in second and third respectively.

The nap-happy Netherlanders get a full nine minutes longer in bed a night than the British. And a whopping 23 minutes more than their close neighbours the Germans.

How they manage this extra few minutes isn’t exactly known, their bedtime routines aren’t markedly different from their European cousins. They may just make smarter decisions when it comes to what they lie on. Who knows really? My guess…it might be something to do with what they are smoking over there!

So there you have it, around the world in five wonderful sleeping traditions. Which one appeals most to you?

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Did you know that countries around the world have totally different attitudes to sleep, not everyone sleeps only once the sun goes down.

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