Ever felt like the toughest sleep decision you make is whether to sleep on your back or stomach? That's really just the tip of the iceberg.
Adequate sleep is an essential part of being healthy. But in the United States, more than a third of the population is sleep deprived -- a depressing statistic. So we decided to take a cue from other populations around the world: How does everyone else do sleep?
What we found demonstrates that the seemingly straightforward act of sleeping has a deep connection to culture, tradition and habits.
Here are six surprising sleep habits from around the world:
1. Japan: Napping To Climb The Corporate Ladder
The Japanese call the cultural tradition of napping on the job inemuri, which means “to be asleep while present.” It's far from taboo; in fact, it's meant to broadcast how tired a person is from working hard. One reason for this may be that Japanese people sleep the least of any population in the world, with just 6 hours and 22 minutes per night, on average.
Naps can also make you better at your job. Studies show that napping makes you more creative, alert and focused.
2. United Kingdom: Birthday Suit Pajamas
3. Australia: Sleeping in a Group
Yasmine Musharbash, an anthropologist at the University of Sydney, reports that co-sleeping is a "marked cultural preference" in the aboriginal community. “People always sleep in the company of other people," she told Sydney's Child. "You sleep in a row of swags or beds or mattresses.” The rows are set up to protect the vulnerable, such as children and the elderly, with stronger adults sleeping at the ends.
Peace of mind, which can come from that feeling of protection and togetherness, is an important ingredient for successful sleep.
4. Mexico: Sleeping in Hammocks
5. Botswana and Zaire: No Schedule
In many modern hunter-gatherer tribes, like the !Kung of Botswana and the Efe of Zaire, "sleep is a very fluid state," anthropologist Carol Worthman told Discover Magazine. "They sleep when they feel like it -- during the day, in the evening, in the dead of night,” not on a recurring bloc like most Western societies, she said.
Sleep medicine specialists say that sleeping only when you're tired is a surefire way to get better rest and stave off "sleep anxiety."
6. Indonesia: "Fear Sleep"
People on the Indonesian island of Bali have been observed to exhibit something called "fear sleep," or "todoet poeles," according to Worthman. In stressful situations, they can fall instantly into a deep sleep, a practice she termed a "cultural acquisition."
The Balinese are on to something: Sleeping can help reduce or even erase fear response, according to a Time magazine report.
And there you have it: Proof that sleep isn't just a biological phenomenon. It's deeply rooted in our cultures, lifestyles and habits. If nothing else, take a tip from these methods above and sleep your own way -- just as long as you're getting enough.
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