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Interesting Sleep Habits from Around the World

Sleep is an essential part of life. No matter where a person comes from, they sleep. Not only that, they also have their own set of specific sleep habits which have been ingrained in them by the society they grew up in.

While many of these habits may seem strange or unusual to one person, someone living in the next country over might disagree. In fact, they may even find the sleep habits of someone else funny or bizarre.

However, the truth of the matter is that as long as you are getting enough sleep, it doesn’t much matter how you are getting it. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, perhaps you could learn a thing or two from the cultures of far-off places, and implement some of their habits into your day or routine in order to improve the amount and quality of sleep you are getting each day.

Biphasic and Polyphasic Sleep

Most people living in North America practice monophasic sleep—that is, they sleep in one 6–9 hour stretch every 24 hours. However, this is not how all people sleep, nor is it necessarily how people have slept throughout history. Instead, there are many historical records suggesting that people used to practice biphasic sleep, i.e. sleeping in two blocks with an hour or two of wakefulness between them. During the short interlude between blocks of sleep, people would do any number of things including reading, writing, praying, and even visiting neighbors.

There are many people today who would benefit from a biphasic sleep pattern, but instead live in a society that accepts monophasic sleep as the norm. These people may believe they have sleep problems or insomnia, when in reality their bodies are just better suited to another sleep schedule.

In some cultures biphasic sleep patterns are still prevalent. Most of the people practicing this type of sleep schedule can be found in Latin America or in the Mediterranean. A good example of this can be observed in Spain where siestas are common place. During the afternoon in Spain almost all businesses close for a couple of hours in the afternoon in order to allow their employees to have an afternoon nap or siesta. During this time, nearly every person in Spain can be found resting in preparation for the rest of the day.

Besides the people practicing biphasic sleep because it is a cultural norm, there are those who have found biphasic or polyphasic sleep (sleep taken in more than two stints in a 24-hour period) works best for them. These people can be found all over the world and there are a multitude of schedules followed by these individuals.

Co-Sleeping, Family Beds, and Babies

Here in the United States, co-sleeping is a taboo topic. Many consider the practice unsafe—which it can be, if not practiced properly—and some think it may be unhealthy and disruptive to the sleep patterns of both the parents and the baby.

However, the US is actually in the minority when it comes to their opinions on co-sleeping. Most other countries practice co-sleeping with their babies, toddlers, and preschoolers. Many families in other countries even share sleeping space with everyone in a family—sometimes including grandparents—sleeping together in one room, and often on one bed or pallet.

If a person from a bed-sharing culture were to visit an American home and see a baby sleeping in a separate room they would likely be appalled and may even consider the arrangement neglectful. There are accounts of foreigners making such remarks as, “The poor baby has to sleep all by himself?” If you were coming from a place where all babies sleep with their parents, you likely would be very concerned for this “poor baby” as well, and honestly, from an evolutionary standpoint, it is only natural to want to keep young children close while we sleep. For these reasons, it is obvious why a person might think an American parent is crazy for leaving a baby or young child to sleep alone.

However, based on surveys which asked new American mothers specific questions about their family’s sleeping arrangements, many of the adorable nurseries set up with anticipation during pregnancy are rarely—if ever—used. This is because, although some parents may be nervous to admit it, many people in the US practice co-sleeping in some form for some period of time each night despite the constant stream of negative press the topic receives in the States.

For those who think parents who leave their babies to sleep on their own are neglectful, a visit to Scandinavia might help put things into perspective. Most parents in Scandinavian countries place their babies in strollers to nap outside in below freezing temperatures. To keep them warm, they bundle them up in what are commonly referred to as ‘dunes’. What’s more, the babies are typically left to take these naps alone. It isn’t uncommon to see a pram parked outside a supermarket with a baby sleeping inside it and no parent in sight.

The babies are left to sleep outside because it is believed to promote better night sleeping, resulting in a happier child. The parents of these babies also believe the fresh air during nap times promotes good health in the child.

Sleep Remedies

While everyone in the world sleeps, there are plenty of people around the world who have an off night and just can’t sleep. This has been true for all of recorded history, and has resulted in a vast array of remedies said to improve the sleep of insomnia victims. Some of these remedies have been proven to work, others have never really been tested, and others still are likely only successful due to physiological effects. Next time you are having a hard time sleeping, try some of these remedies and see what works for you.

Warm Milk — Warm milk has been used to promote sleep by people all over the world for ages. However, this remedy is especially popular in countries like Rwanda where milk is plentiful and other resources may not be accessible. Milk contains the amino acid tryptophan, which helps produce melatonin and serotonin, both sleep inducing hormones.

Worry Dolls — In Guatemala, children are given worry dolls and instructed to tell the doll all of the worries which keep them from sleep. The doll is then placed under the owner’s pillow and by morning the doll has carried those worries away.

Dried Jujube — The dried fruit of the jujube tree is used in China to help restless people sleep. The smell from this tree is said to make teenagers fall in love.

Valerian — The smelly, dried root of the Valerian plant is often used as a sedative in Germany, and can easily be found in supplement form.

Lavender — We have all heard that lavender can help you relax and get a good night’s sleep. Research tells us that the scent of lavender can help a person sleep up to 20% better.

Dream Catchers — Many Native Americans use dream catchers to capture bad dreams and therefore promote good, quality sleep. Dream catchers have the appearance of a spider web and are hung above the bed of someone suffering from bad dreams.

Bed Types

People around the world sleep in many different kinds of beds. Some of these include hammocks in the Amazon, charpoys or rope beds in India, and tatami mats on the floor in Japan. All of these bed styles are both fascinating and functional.

While the different types of beds found around the world are interesting, the fact of the matter is that Western-style beds are the most comfortable option and offer the best quality sleep possible. Therefore, no matter what sleeping habits you choose to pick up, one of the best ways to get a good night’s (or day’s) sleep is to purchase a good mattress.

If you are in the market for a new, excellent quality mattress, please contact your local Urban Mattress store. We would love to help you find the perfect mattress to suit your needs.