When it comes to great sleep, one size does not fit all. The ways in which the world sleeps are as diverse as the people that inhabit it — and you’d be surprised how much you can learn from the sleep habits of cultures around the world. From lengthy midday naps to sleeping outdoors, these are 7 fascinating ways the world gets their shut-eye.
In Scandinavia, infants often sleep in the great outdoors.
Visitors to Norway and Sweden might notice this particular napping novelty: dozens of strollers parked outside of coffee shops and supermarkets! Scandinavian parents often leave strollers with snoozing newborns outside while they finish up their errands inside.
For many Americans, this might seem like a nightmare waiting to happen — but for Scandinavian locals, snoozing outside is considered much healthier for little ones. It’s such a popular belief that many daycares and preschools in these countries hold nap time outside to allow tots more exposure to fresh air.
In some Asian countries, it’s normal (and common) to nap at work.
In some parts of Asia — including larger cities in China and Vietnam — getting a few minutes of shut-eye during your lunch break is not only normal, but expected. During lunchtime in some offices around Asia, employees will retire to a dedicated “nap room” to get a few minutes of relaxation. Others will simply lean back in their chair and nod off. Depending on the company and the culture, naps could last anywhere from a few minutes to a full hour.
This curious napping habit stems from the fact that many locals living in these countries start their days much earlier than their Western counterparts, with some locals rising as early as 4am!
In the UK, almost a third of people sleep in the nude.
For many Britons, there’s no need for pajamas — almost a third of people in the UK say they prefer sleeping without any clothes at all. According to a study from the National Sleep Foundation, Britain has the highest percentage of self-proclaimed nocturnal nudists than any other country surveyed.
For those that sleep hot, ditching the clothes and sleeping in your birthday suit might be a good option — but we’ll settle for an advanced cooling mattress instead!
In some Arab countries, bedrooms serve more functions than one.
In countries like Afghanistan, bedrooms are very rarely dedicated to sleeping alone. Instead, many Afghan families will fold up their mattresses and blankets after a night’s sleep so that the room can play host to other activities, like meals and entertaining guests. It’s also common for entire families to snooze in one room together, rather than retiring to separate bedrooms to sleep.
In Australia’s aboriginal communities, people almost always sleep in groups.
In some parts of Australia, aboriginal communities follow age-old customs when it comes to sleep. Rather than sleeping in separate rooms or areas, people sleep in large groups that are designed to keep members of the community safe.
Beds are arranged in long rows, with the strongest members of the community sleeping on the perimeter while younger and elderly individuals sleep toward the center of the group. This stems from a cultural belief that protection and togetherness is an important ingredient for restful sleep.
In Spain, kids burn the midnight oil along with their parents.
In the US, we’re accustomed to kids having earlier bedtimes than adults (even if it’s the adults that wish they could nod off earlier). In Spain, however, children’s sleep schedules are similar to that of their parents, often staying awake until well past 10pm.
This is likely because of two cultural elements: siestas (long midday meals with naps), and much later dinners. Families in Spain often eat dinner as late at 9pm, so heading off to bed an hour or two following a meal isn’t out of the ordinary.
In some African countries like Botswana and Zaire, locals don’t adhere to a set sleep schedule.
Here’s a custom we wish would make the leap to the United States: in some African countries including Botswana and Zaire, certain traditional hunter-gatherer groups do not follow a set sleep schedule like Western countries do. Instead, people sleep when they feel they need it — whether that’s during the day, in the evening or late at night.
Some sleep experts suggest that sleeping in this way could fend off “sleep anxiety”, and could even translate to better, more restful sleep… which leads us to say, “sign us up!”
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