Unusual sleep habits from around the world

January 12, 2021 5 mins read
Unusual sleep habits from around the world

We can’t live without it, yet our habits vary from culture to person. And no, we’re not talking about our Netflix habits, we’re talking about sleep. As each culture, and even job description has its own working hours and lifestyle habits, it’s no wonder that there are so many unusual ways to get in our resting hours.

Let’s look at these interesting sleeping habits from around the world, and if these alternative ways have any benefits.

Japanese are micro-nappers

Did you know that in Japan, falling asleep in public is encouraged? These power naps or micro-naps are called “inemuri” which translated means “sleeping on duty” or “sleeping while present” and is said to show diligence in the workplace. If a Japanese person falls asleep at their desk or even at a social gathering, they’re thought of more highly as their participation (awake or not) is what matters most.

Our take: We know the art of a power nap is much to be celebrated when it comes to catching up on sleep after a late night or a great solution to reignite inspiration for the rest of the day’s productivity. However, naps should not be the primary source of reaching your sleep needs. Getting a solid 7-9 hours a night is the goal.

The Spanish are siesta sleepers

When you think of long, dreamy afternoon naps, it probably conjures up an image of a hot summer holiday on a crystal clear coastline (because what else are summer holidays for, right?). And this is the clue as to why the Spanish siesta is so famous – for escaping the heat and catching up on lost sleep. As the sun goes down much later, the nights become longer, they lose out on a full 7-9 hours, and to catch up, they have an allocated afternoon slot for their naps to allow them to power through the rest of the afternoon (and make up those lost hours).

Our take: siestas are a form of biphasic sleep patterns which means that you get your full sleep needs in two solid periods of sleep. But our circadian rhythm is designed for one sitting of sleep, and by splitting this up, you’re essentially confusing your body’s natural rhythm, which when winter falls, you may find it hard to fall asleep at regular hours. (But siesta’s on holiday? We’re all for it!)

Navy Seals are obligation sleepers

“Sleep when you need to” or otherwise referred to as a “lull in combat” is the sleep practice of Navy Seals during combat training. As we can imagine being a Navy Seal is a “high alert, high energy” task, and that’s why their sleeping habits resemble the same effect. When they’re on duty, they’re seen to be taking short 10-minute naps or as much as they can fit in at one time. This is so they can “top-up” the energy reserves and retune their mind back to precision. However, post duty their sleep habits resume to normal which (being sleep experts) can only mean retraining their body clocks and catching up on all that sleep debt.

Our take: polyphasic sleeping (catching up on a full 7-9 hours in many sleep sittings) may work for short bouts of time for some professions, but as a continuous lifestyle, there will be sleep deprivation effects can have major health consequences. Your body needs to cycle through all stages of sleep to perform its restoration and rejuvenation process. By shortening the length of your sleep, you don’t allow your body to reach all stages needed to replenish your body.

Scandinavians are outdoor sleepers

In Nordic countries, it is said that parents will often leave their children to sleep outside while they attend to their groceries and even allocate certain naps times for outdoor naps. The aim of this (quite unusual) practice is to allow their children’s immune systems to strengthen, preventing them from getting sick.

Our take: While we know that sleeping in cooler temperatures with access to fresh air is better for our sleep quality, we advise testing this strategy on ourselves before our children.

Americans are pet sleepers

Anyone who owns a pet that’s become a part of their family will probably agree with this one: a pet sleeping in or on your bed helps you sleep better. This is what 71% of Americans have agreed. They say it helps them de-stress and feel comforted, allowing them to have a deeper, more restful sleep.

Our take: We know that oxytocin (the cuddle and love hormone) is released when we’re with our partners in bed (even our fur-partners), which helps lower our stress levels (cortisol) allowing us to feel protected and nurtured to slip into sleep easily.

Guatemalans are superstitious sleepers

Stress, the primary sleep sapper, is what each one of us tries to avoid before light-out. However, the Guatemalans have come up with their own de-stressors, called “worry dolls.” These bedtime companions are little dolls made of wire, wood, and even dressed in a traditional Mayan outfit. These dolls are placed under their pillows at night and are seen to keep superstitious and worrisome thoughts away to ensure a more peaceful sleep.

Our take: destressing for bed is most definitely an essential part of bedtime. But we prefer a hot cup of sleep tea, calming sleep music, or meditation practice.

Sleeping is an instinctive human activity. And even though it may look different around the world, one thing is common, we all need it and will find our own way to get it. (Even if it’s a bit unusual).