Sleeping facts from around the world
We all need to sleep, but did you know that how long we sleep for, where we rest our heads and what time we settle down and get up varies greatly across different countries and cultures? Latitude and longitude play their part, but customs are not all tied to the sunrise and sunset. In Japan, workers get so little shut-eye at night that it's perfectly acceptable to take a nap at the daytime desk. This tradition, inemuri, is highly regarded, and is a sign that someone has been working hard.
The effect of electric light
The invention of electricity changed sleeping patterns in the industrialised west. While nomadic and developing societies preferred polyphasic sleep, broken up into segments, we in the developed world now opt for monophasic sleep - we tend to get all our rest in one long stretch. The Efe of Zaire and the King of Botswana are two modern hunter-gatherer tribes who regard sleep as fluid, and take it sporadically day or night.
Don't try and find a shop or business open in the early afternoon in Mediterranean countries; everyone takes a long break for lunch and then a snooze, to escape the heat of the day. Life then picks up again and continues on late into the evening.
Europeans and Americans are the odd ones out when it comes to expecting children to sleep in their own rooms. In most of the rest of the world kids are in with their parents, and even other family members. Afghan families sleep together in a central room, then fold up their mattresses every morning, to convert back to a living space.
Fresh air fanatics
Scandinavians are so assured of the health benefits of cold air, that they leave their babies outside to nap in the winter. This was also a belief of Queen Victoria of England, who slept with her windows wide open, even when it was snowing.
Many British people might find it difficult to dress for a pyjama party, as a third sleep in the nude. Although this may sound rather racy, a further 43% enjoy a nice cup of tea before turning in.
Who are the worst sleepers?
South Africans seem to suffer from insomnia more than most, with 53% of them having to use medication to get some rest. They are closely followed by the Portuguese at 46%.
In areas where malaria poses a threat to human health, such as in sub-Saharan Africa, it is safer to sleep cocooned in a mosquito net. Nets that have been treated with insecticide are life-savers and help stop the spread of dangerous diseases.
Not just beds
Mexicans love their hammocks, while the Chinese don't tend to place comfort first: many prefer a futon with a wooden block for a pillow, many sleep straight on the ground, on just a mat or some leaves. Inuits sleep on ice beds covered with caribou skins. Our divan beds with their soft linen and pillows sound luxurious in comparison!
Wind down on Wednesday
A study done for a sleep app company found that worldwide, 58% of people got the best night's sleep of all on a Wednesday. It's no surprises though, that the majority, at 71%, wake up in the best mood on Saturdays.