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5 Sleep Strategies From Around the World

What other countries are doing to promote better slumber

In honor of Sleep Awareness Month, we are hitting the snooze button and properly catching up on one of our favorite topics: sleep. From uncovering sleep hacks on the other side of the world to figuring out how to calculate our accumulated sleep debt, this collection of articles serves you all the tools you need to prioritize some quality zzzs.

In This Spotlight:

Sleep is an important part of our health and well-being. However, it’s not always easy to go to bed, fall asleep quickly and wake up feeling refreshed and energized. Most of us have laid in bed, going over what we need to do the next day and ruminating over things that happened in the past while anxiously worrying about how little sleep we’re getting. 

From the stress of work, school, and family, late night snacking that wreaks havoc on our digestive tract to the pesky side effects of medications, there are plenty of reasons why it’s difficult to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recommended seven hours of sleep or more per night. 

In 2020, 34.8% of American adults slept less than seven hours per night on average. This is also referred to as short sleep duration. Specifically, 34.0% of women and 35.4% of men did not meet the age group recommendation. Across states, West Virginia had the highest prevalence of short sleep duration (42.8%), and Colorado had the lowest (29.3%). 

A 2016 study published in the Journal Science Advances looked at “normal” sleep schedules using smartphone data across 20 different countries. It showed that the Netherlands, New Zealand, France, Australia, and Belgium were the top five countries whose residents got the most sleep. Every one of these countries averaged more than eight hours of sleep per night.

Poor quality of sleep has been linked to long-term physical and mental health consequences. Considering Americans are getting significantly fewer zzz’s than other countries, let’s take a look at five sleep strategies around the world and why they may help promote better slumber.

Inemuri (“Being Present While Asleep”) in Japan

It may seem unusual to Americans; however, in Japan, workers will frequently take naps in public locations such as park benches, public transportation, office spaces, streets, trains, stairs, in meetings, or even during dinner parties.

Inemuri can be defined as “being present while asleep.” In Japanese culture, sleeping on the job isn’t perceived as a bad thing; it’s socially accepted and embraced as it indicates that the person has been working hard and prioritizing productivity. 

Japan is one of the countries that gets the least sleep per night. Therefore, many companies encourage their employees to take naps during work hours to help improve productivity, focus, and performance. 

A 2021 systematic review and meta-analysis aimed to assess the benefits of a short daytime nap on cognitive performance. It analyzed the time and cognitive function, including alertness, executive function, and memory among working-age adults before and after a daytime nap and compared it to those who did not take a nap. 

The results showed that overall cognitive performance significantly improved for up to a few hours in the afternoon for the nap group following the nap, especially for alertness. It concluded that it supports further studies on implementing daytime napping at work to improve work efficiency.

Siestas in Spain

A siesta is a sleep habit that many are familiar with. In Spanish, siesta means nap; it involves taking a break in the middle of the working day to go home and enjoy lunch with family, followed by a siesta. 

Most of us have experienced the post-lunch energy dip. It is especially difficult to stay alert when we didn’t sleep enough the night before. However, a 10-minute nap might just get us through the afternoon and help make up the hours of sleep that we need.

A study looked at the short-term benefits of brief and long naps following a night of insufficient sleep. Alertness and cognitive performance measures were taken in participants who did not take a nap, took a 10-minute nap, or a 30-minute nap after a night of 4.7 hours of sleep.

The results showed no changes in those who had no nap and a decline in measures for those after a 30-minute nap. However, there was a significant improvement in alertness and cognitive performance that lasted for an hour in those who took a 10-minute nap.

It is suggested that a short nap prevents you from reaching the deeper stages of sleep. Hence, you are able to wake up easily and are less likely to experience post-nap grogginess.

Scandinavian Sleep Method

In Scandinavian countries like Norway, Denmark and Sweden, many couples who sleep in the same bed have their own individual blankets. They do not share the same duvet or comforter and do not use a top sheet. This sleep strategy is referred to as the Scandinavian sleep method.

Most of us have experienced falling asleep and getting woken up by the slightest nudge from our partner. Their tosses and turns can cause disruptions in our sleep.

Sharing a blanket can leave you feeling too hot or cold. Your partner may roll over and take the whole duvet with them, leaving you cold and uncovered. They may kick off half of the blanket on top of you, leaving you hot and sweaty. Or your partner’s preference for a thin comforter may not keep you warm enough at night.

Our body is extra sensitive to heat and cold exposure while we sleep. Even a mild change in temperature can significantly impact the quality of our sleep. Using separate blankets might make sharing a bed more sleep-worthy.

Finnish Sauna

How about finishing the day with a hot sauna bath? This wellness practice that many Finnish partake in regularly has grown in popularity around the world. Saunas are relaxing and can help with sleep. 

A cross-sectional study that looked at the results of the Global Sauna Survey showed that 83.5% of the participants reported sleep benefits after sauna use. The study explained that saunas may play a positive role in mental health. For instance, sauna baths cause the body to release endorphins that help reduce pain and psychological stress. Frequent use of saunas allows a person to practice mindfulness, take time out from busy life schedules to destress, and encourage social interactions with others. All of these benefits work to improve sleep quality.

When using a sauna, you sweat to control your body’s temperature and prevent overheating. Therefore, it’s important to drink sufficient water after using a sauna to prevent dehydration.

Sleeping Naked in France

France is one of the top countries that gets the most sleep, and approximately 28% of their residents reported going to bed naked. For some sensory-sensitive individuals, the clinginess of pajamas may be uncomfortable while sleeping. Others may feel that sleeping naked boosts their self-esteem as it helps them feel more comfortable in their skin.

There is little research on whether sleeping naked helps promote sleep. Our core temperature drops during sleep and rises when we are awake. This cycle is regulated by our body’s circadian rhythm. You may fall asleep faster if your body’s temperature decreases quicker. Therefore, if you tend to wake up from overheating in your clothes, sleeping naked may keep you cool and help you stay asleep longer.

Ultimately, getting sufficient sleep plays an important role in a healthy and balanced life. Adopting some of these global strategies may be worth a try. 

Talk to your doctor if you regularly have problems falling asleep or if you feel unusually tired even after getting the recommended number of hours of sleep.

Illustration by Tara Anand

10 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. How much sleep do I need?

  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adult sleep data.

  3. Walch OJ, Cochran A, Forger DB. A global quantification of “normal” sleep schedules using smartphone data. Sci Adv. 2016;2(5):e1501705.

  4. Medic G, Wille M, Hemels ME. Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption. NSS. 2017;9:151–161.

  5. Dutheil F, Danini B, Bagheri R, et al. Effects of a short daytime nap on the cognitive performance: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2021;18(19):10212.

  6. Tietzel AJ, Lack LC. The short-term benefits of brief and long naps following nocturnal sleep restriction. Sleep. 2001;24(3):293–300.

  7. Thermal environment and sleep quality: A review. Energy and Buildings. 2017;149:101–113.

  8. A hot topic for health: results of the global sauna survey. Complementary Therapies in Medicine. 2019;44:223–234.

  9. Statista. People who sleep naked by frequency. France 2019.

  10. Okamoto-Mizuno K, Mizuno K. Effects of thermal environment on sleep and circadian rhythm. J Physiol Anthropol. 2012;31(1):14.

By Katharine Chan, MSc, BSc, PMP
Katharine is the author of three books (How To Deal With Asian Parents, A Brutally Honest Dating Guide and A Straight Up Guide to a Happy and Healthy Marriage) and the creator of 60 Feelings To Feel: A Journal To Identify Your Emotions. She has over 15 years of experience working in British Columbia's healthcare system.