How The World Naps: Uncovering Global Rest Cultures
All around the world, people are tired and feeling stress. Different cultures handle fatigue very differently, but with one commonality – they all have their own variations on napping. So let’s take a look at a few nap cultures across the globe.
Napping cultures exist all over the world, and in recent years, this pro-sleep trend is starting to gain traction in the U.S.
Napping and power napping are proven to have health benefits such as improving cognition and memory.
Napping and rest culture practices can vary from taking a few hours to recharge to a few minutes of rest.
Did you know?
Many countries have sleep retreats that you can visit. Check out Portugal, Thailand, and even New York City, where you can indulge in sleep spa appointments.
Have you had your nap today? You might assume this question is from a caregiver to a child or even an older adult. However, naps aren’t just for the youngest or oldest in society; they can benefit almost everyone. In the U.S, we don’t often think of napping as something for busy adults – but that is starting to change. This local cultural shift mimicks the success of other cultures across the globe, embracing napping and rest cultures for centuries.
Perhaps the most famous of all midday rests is the siesta. Siesta is a custom throughout Spain and other Mediterranean countries. Derived from Latin meaning "sixth hour," the siesta is a time for people to rest and recharge in the middle of their day. Though the time varies based on location, siesta usually occurs between 2 pm and 5 pm, about six hours after starting the day. Napping facts show alertness, cognition, short-term memory, and mood all increase with a short rest at midday.
Moving down the Mediterranean, you’ll find yourself in Italy, where a midday rest is also common. The riposo, as it’s known in Italy, is a time for Italians to “retreat” from the hottest part of the day and rest. Similar to Spain’s siesta, the riposo is a custom throughout Italy.
Depending on your location, riposo may take place anywhere from 1 pm to 5 pm. Many shops and stores will close during this time. Shop owners and workers may go home, enjoy a delicious lunch, and savor time away from work. It’s a perfect time to settle in under a weighted blanket, close your eyes, and recharge for the remainder of the day.
Úti in Iceland
You'd think that the cold and windy climate in Iceland would drive most people indoors, where it's warm and cozy. On the contrary, Icelanders are trained to nap outside (úti) since infancy! They believe napping outdoors is good for health as the fresh air helps to build healthy lungs. So if you find yourself visiting Reykjavik or Akureyri, don't be alarmed by an unattended pram outside a cafe.
We're not saying this is why Icelanders have one of the best life expectancy rates in the world, but we're not denying the possibility.
Inemuri for a Minute
Japanese culture and current trends often seem at odds with each other. For example, some customs, such as tea ceremonies, or tsukimi, the practice of moon viewing, seem to remind us to slow down the pace of life. Yet, Japan is often known for bright lights, busy cities, and industrious people.
Because of the busy, hard-working lifestyle of the Japanese people, they sleep the fewest hours each night, compared to other nations. To keep up with the busy pace, the Japanese have developed a culture of inemuri, which means "being present while asleep." Inemuri is the practice of catching a few zzz’s whenever you can. This means you can often find individuals resting their eyes on the bus, in between meetings, in a park, or whenever they have a few minutes to spare.
The inemuri rest is very short, sometimes just a minute or two. But, it’s just enough to quiet the mind and body for a blitz recharge and then resume the day.
Wǔshuì for All Ages
In China, taking a mid-day nap (shùi wǔjiào) or an afternoon nap (wǔshuì) is the norm. Napping at noon is particularly encouraged among learners and workers because the Chinese believe that it improves concentration and fuels creativity. So you'll often find employees of large corporations rolling out their sleeping bags and taking a nap after lunch. In some cities, you can even find nap pods to rent for a quick 30-minute nap (or longer).
Power Nap Right at Home
Previously frowned upon for adults, power napping culture is becoming the norm in some workplaces. Companies like Google, Facebook, Huffington Post, and Ben & Jerry’s have been encouraging staff to nap to bolster wellness and boost productivity.
Even the U.S Army has noticed the difference between tired soldiers and well-rested soldiers. So, to prevent fatigue and the errors that come with it, they now encourage naps. Power naps, like the inemuri, are short and sweet (ideally 10-20 minutes in length). They usually take place between 12:30 pm and 2 pm or whenever you feel your mid-afternoon slump.
Looking to add power napping to your routine? Here are a few things to try to make the most of your minutes: