The benefits of a good night’s sleep are undisputed. It helps improve our memory and mood, can assist with weight loss and enhance athletic performance, reduce our chance of developing diabetes, is good for our heart, and is just all-round vital to our overall health and well-being.
But the way we sleep – how much, how well, and even what we sleep on – varies significantly from person-to-person, and between climates and cultures.
So who’s getting the best sleep (and the worst)? And what lessons can we take away from the habits of those who sleep better or worse than ourselves, to help improve the quality of our own sleep?
On average, Australians sleep the most, getting 8.51 hours of shut-eye a night (or 511 minutes).
At the other end of the scale, the Japanese sleep the least, getting just 7.23 hours a night (or 434 minutes).
But, a full night’s sleep doesn’t necessarily mean you’re getting a good night’s sleep…
In fact, a recent worldwide survey found that although 1 in 3 people said they usually get a full night’s sleep (around 8 hours) just 1 in 4 felt they had a good night’s sleep.
Here’s how people responded around the world when asked “did you have a good night’s sleep?”
So, while most people regularly enjoy a good night’s sleep, those in Germany, Japan and Mexico had fewer bad nights than those surveyed in other countries.
So what do we do (or not do) that might be affecting the quality of sleep we enjoy?
Bad habits include:
While good habits include:
Whilst the majority of the world sleeps in a bed and snuggle between bedding like sheets and a duvet, futons are common in Japan, and if you ever find yourself settling down for the night outdoors in the tropics or a rainforest, you might be grateful to avoid those creepy crawlies by swapping that bed for a hammock.
If you live in the western world and you tend to sleep on two pillows, you’re not alone – most of America and Europe does too. However in Asia sleeping with a single pillow is more common and interestingly, in Japan and Mexico 1 in 10 people sleep with no pillow at all.
In many cultures napping is commonplace – whether it’s the Spanish ‘siesta’ or the Japanese ‘inemuri’.
Napping offers many of the same benefits as a good night’s sleep (even if it means nappers sleep less at night).
In fact a study into the benefits of napping indicated that those who nap have a reduced risk of heart attack. Naps were also found to be associated with a 37% reduction in coronary mortality (possibly due to reduced cardiovascular stress meditated by daytime sleep).
Residents of Japan and Poland were found to go to bed the latest (with average bed times of 00:49 and 00:55 respectively).
The earliest risers were in Columbia and South Africa (06.31 and 6.24). However despite their late bedtimes, the Japanese rise relatively early (an average of 07.09); not that we should really be surprised, since they were also found to sleep the least at night overall.
Different countries and cultures approach sleep differently, which as we’ve seen above, leads to mixed results. However, there are plenty of things you can do to increase your chances of getting that all-important good night’s sleep.
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