In this increasingly divided world, there are still a few things which remain that unite us. And one of those is that we all love a good old snooze.
However, just as the language we speak and the food we eat differ depending on the country we live in, so too does how we sleep. There are many cultural differences in sleep practices.
Unsurprisingly, our bedtime routines reflect the differences in everything from our environment, to our lifestyles and cultural values.
Below are just some of the countless ways in which the world gets its rest on.
Sleeping Habits Around the World
The UK: Have a Cuppa and Lose the Pajamas
First stop – The UK. The Brits are nothing if not predictable and unsurprisingly a cup of tea plays a role in their bedtime routine. Well it ‘bloody well’ would, wouldn’t it?!
43% of people in the UK have a relaxing warm drink, like tea, before heading to bed. More surprising – for a nation notorious for being uptight about nudity – is that a full one-third of Brits surveyed claim to sleep in the nip.
Considering how cold it is in the UK, that hot drink seems essential if you’re bedding down naked. Blimey!
Botswana: Whenever You Feel Like It
Next up, to the dusty plains of the Kalahari Desert we go. Let’s visit the modern-day, hunter-gatherer tribe: the !Kung from Botswana. Yep, !Kung. That’s how it’s spelled!
The !Kung have no set bedtime – and I don’t mean they sometimes sleep at 10pm, sometime 11pm. Nope, they sleep whenever and wherever they damn well feel like it. Whether it’s the evening, the dead of night or the middle of the morning, it can be bedtime for them.
Sleep for the !Kung is completely fluid and bedtime is when the group is tired, regardless of time of day or wider social norms.
They probably don’t have much in the way of modern sleep technology down there but do you think they have !Kung-sized mattresses?! (Sorry!)
Sleeping Japanese: the Art of Napping
Out East this time. To Japan – the land of the rising sun – a country of countless contrasts.
Due to the Japanese work culture of long hours and long commuting times, a coping mechanism has evolved nationwide known as inemuri; which roughly translates as “to be asleep while present.” Or as it would be classed at home – being asleep on the job.
Well, not just on the job; sleep also occurs on benches, during meetings, at dinner parties, on trains, at bus stops, in toilet queues, etc., etc. Wherever it may be, the Japanese are the masters of the public nap. Often unleashing their slumbering skills even while standing up. Like bedtime bosses!
Thankfully for the countless sleep-deprived in Japan, there is no taboo attached to inemuri. Napping in public is rather taken as a sign of dedication and diligence than laziness. Time to install some wall beds in the office!
Guatemala: Say Goodnight to the Worry Doll
Let’s hop to Central America now. It’s time to play with dolls.
A Guatemalan worry doll is a tiny, inch-high, hand-made figurine made of wood or wire and dressed in yarn to resemble traditional Mayan clothing.
According to Mayan legend, whispering your worldly concerns to the doll and tucking it under your pillow before sleep will prevent you from taking your worries to bed. Allowing you to sleep soundly through to the dawn; when you will wake carefree and unburdened by the problems of the day before.
Now, that is a doll I can get on board with. Get lost, Barbie! And take Ken with you.
Australia: An Aboriginal Way of Sleeping
And finally back Down Under – to Australia.
We’ve all seen the documentary Crocodile Dundee, so we all know just how dangerous the Australian outback can be. Snakes, spiders, drop bears, baby-stealing dingoes – we Aussies have them all.
It’s unsurprising then that Australian Aboriginals have developed a sleep routine that maximises safety. Instead of sleeping alone, Aboriginals arrange their mattresses or ‘swags’ in a long line, known as a yunta.
For protection the most vulnerable members of the group – the old, young and infirm – sleep at the centre, with the able-bodied adults keeping watch at the end. Smart.
Another Aboriginal sleep habit – this time one shared with their Inuit cousins way way up in the icy north – is dogs as hot water bottles. When sleeping outside on a walkabout, Aboriginals make use of their trusty canine companions, allowing them to snuggle alongside them for warmth.
This tradition has led to a night’s temperature being rated according to the number of four-legged friends required to keep warm. As in, “well, that was a three-dog night, wasn’t it?!”.
Five Fascinating Snoozes
Thanks for joining me on my trip around the world…in five fascinating snoozes.
I personally think I may take a little from each…I plan to drink a cup of tea, whisper to my worry doll and then curl up on a train in the middle of the day with my dog. Now that’s multi-culturalism for you!
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