Catching some Zs, shame free
Why do we make some of our most basic human needs so taboo?
Though we all need to eat, sleep, go to the bathroom, and (for many) reproduce, different cultural and societal norms have strictly determined how, when, and where we do them. Any variation in what’s considered “normal” for the majority is sure to lead to scrutiny and criticism of those who don’t follow the established system.
When do you find time to sleep? Is it a priority, or would you rather stay awake to work, enjoy life, or finish “just one more” episode of your favorite show? Is your sleep schedule considered normal?
Now think about where you sleep. For most of us, the answer is simple: in our beds. Do you ever sleep at work? Or on your commute? Chances are you don’t, since it would either be considered unsafe or unprofessional.
In one country, however, the culture around sleeping in public is shameless. In fact, people might even think more highly of you for it.
How much sleep do you get each night?
If you’re like 40% of Americans, you’re not getting as much sleep as experts recommend. That can mean feeling drowsy or even agitated during the day, not to mention you’re probably craving sleep at all the wrong moments.
So would you consider napping on your commute home? If you take the subway or other crowded mass transit, chances are you might not want to doze off while surrounded by countless strangers. But as it turns out, this fear doesn’t exist in every country.
Sleeping on the Job
Now imagine you’re at work, perhaps stuck in the middle of a long day. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just nap for a few minutes?
In many American jobs, falling asleep could earn you some immediate disciplinary action, or you might even lose your job. But why should we be so afraid of sleeping? Why can’t we be more like the Japanese?
In Japan, it’s totally kosher to snooze on the job, or even on the crowded metro home. In fact, people might respect you more for it. Here’s why.
Respect the Rest
Inemuri, often translated as “sleeping on duty” or “sleeping while present,” is a time-honored tradition in Japanese culture. It’s most often seen when somebody takes a little nap in the office, while commute, or while sitting in public. And it’s totally respectable to do so.
In her 2007 book on the subject, Dr. Brigitte Steger explains that inemuri is an ancient Japanese tradition still practiced today, although largely be white-collar men. According to her research, both men and women may take quick naps in restaurants, stores, or even a sidewalk bench, and it indicates that you’ve been working so hard you completely deserve a little extra rest.
Why can’t we all nap like the Japanese? Here are the unwritten rules of inemuri: