Sleep Care

Cultural Differences in Sleep

Most everyone struggles to get a little more snooze time. In fact, people in almost every country are lacking adequate sleep. According to one study about one in four people in the 10 countries surveyed believe that they don’t sleep well, making sleep issues a global problem.

But how does sleep vary from country to country? Well, across the board, research has been conflicting but a few trends have emerged. For instance, several studies, including a study conducted by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), indicate the French sleep more than any other country.

In fact, the OECD reported in 2009 that the French sleep a daily average of 530 minutes, or nearly nine hours a night compared to 518 minutes for Americans and 469 minutes for Koreans, the most awake nation in the study. The report also indicated that despite globalization, the OECD’s 30 member nations still demonstrate distinct cultural differences in how they spend time away from work.

For example, the study showed that the French spend an average of two hours eating every day, which is about twice the time that Americans spend eating. Meanwhile, Mexicans spend 48 percent of their leisure time watching TV or listening to radio compared with 44 percent of Americans and 28 percent of Germans. And Spaniards are the most committed to sports spending 12 percent of their leisure time participating in physical activities compared with 5 percent for Americans and 2 percent for Turks.

Meanwhile, another study of cultural sleeping differences, conducted by Royal Philips Electronics, a health and well-being company, discovered that 72 percent of the respondents sleep only six-and-a-quarter hours a night and 87 percent say their work has been impacted by lack of sleep. However, Americans are more likely than other countries to lose sleep because of work-related stress.

In fact, 30 percent of the American participants in this study indicated that work stress caused them to wake up at night followed by 27 percent of Germans, 24 percent of people in the UK and 20 percent of Japanese. The Dutch are the least affected by work affected with a meager 12 percent reporting effects.

Americans also have more difficulty falling asleep requiring nearly 26 minutes to relax before they drift off. And they also lead the world in snoring men with 29 percent of men snoring every night. However, Americans also are more likely to report their sleeping issues to a doctor than any other country. But they also are more likely to take a sleeping remedy compared to any other nation with 16 percent indicating they would take something to help them sleep compared to an average of 7 percent in other countries.

Not surprisingly, this study indicates that the Japanese sleep less overall than other countries with a whopping 97 percent sleeping less than the recommended eight hours a night.

There are even cultural sleep differences within the United States. But again the results are inconsistent. For instance, one study found that 40 percent of African Americans experienced greater difficulty sleeping compared to 33 percent of European Americans. Meanwhile, a second study found that 68 percent of European Americans reported awakening at night compared to 62 percent of African Americans.

Meanwhile, another study found there are some drastic differences among ethnicities regarding sleeping habits. For instance, Asians are the least likely to drink alcohol before bed with only 1 percent having a nightcap compared to 7 percent of whites, 4 percent of blacks and 4 percent of Hispanics.

Additionally, whites are more likely to sleep with their pets as well as more likely to sleep with their spouse or significant other with 16 percent indicating they sleep with their pet and 72 percent stating that they sleep with their partner. By contrast, only 4 percent of Asians, 4 percent of Hispanics and 2 percent of blacks allow their pet in bed with them. And, only 48 percent of blacks and Asians sleep with their significant other and only 54 percent of Hispanics.

Finally, many cultures report being too tired for physical intimacy. For example, only 10 percent of blacks and 10 percent of Hispanics report having sex every night or nearly every night in the hour before bedtime compared to 4 percent of white and 1 percent of Asians.

Although the studies vary on results, it is clear that all cultures are sleep deprived to some extent and that it is impacting their lives. However, on a brighter note researchers have found that people’s awareness of the importance of sleep has improved over the last few years. And that at least is a step in the right direction.

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