Did you go straight back to work after New Year’s Day and spend the rest of the working week in the office?
If you did, maybe it’s because you didn’t know about the Festival of Sleep Day, a day off designed to let the world catch up on its sleep after the hustle and bustle of Christmas. How did it originate? No one really knows, but the general aim is to put right that sleep deficit.
It’s a fairly reasonable custom, but here are a few more, past and present, from around the world that are that little bit more quirky.
Segmented sleep (Europe)
For the last century the norm has been to get eight hours of sleep each night. It wasn’t always like this and up until as late as the 1920s, we used to sleep in intervals. We’d get our ‘first sleep’ (or the not-so-cheerful-sounding ‘dead sleep’), wake up for roughly an hour and then go back to beds for our ‘second sleep’.
During this hour-long period of wakefulness, which we called the ‘watch’, we’d pray, read, write, engage in intimacy, smoke or even visit the neighbours. Basically, we were an active bunch. The idea of two sleeps started to fade out in the 17th century and we now associate eight hours of uninterrupted sleep with a feeling of restfulness.
Babies sleeping outside (Scandinavia)
Don’t be surprised to see a baby sleeping outside in a pram or pushchair if you happen to be in Scandinavia. Parents there are happy to leave their children sleeping outside, whether it’s at nursery or outside a coffee bar while they grab a quick of Joe. They believe the cold air is good for the child.
Public napping (Japan)
If you held a dinner party and one of your guests went to sleep at it, you’d think it was rude, but in Japan this is perfectly acceptable. Commuter trains and park benches are other places you might find citizens randomly sleeping in public. It’s the practice of inemuri (sleeping while present), which acknowledges that someone is tired from working hard but still allows them to take part in the present situation. Some may even consider it a form of multitasking.
Worry dolls (Guatemala)
You might have heard all kinds of different ways to deal with worry, but do you know how tribes in Guatemala deal with night-time nerves? In the country’s highlands, the indigenous people make ‘worry dolls’ which take over all the worrying for them so that the doll’s owner can sleep easily. The doll frame consists of wood or wire, to which the doll owner then adds yarn or fabric to dress in traditional Mayan costumes. They then just slip the doll under their pillow. Legend has it that if you’re feeling worried and can’t sleep because of it, you should talk to as many dolls as possible.
Multipurpose rooms (Afghanistan)
In Afghanistan, entire families sleep in the same room. They then put away the mattresses, blankets etc the next day and then use the room for something else. This is how they do things and if you happen to be visiting an Afghan family, get ready to share a room with the family. They may or may not have a guest room.
Although not quite to the extent of whole families sharing a room, the trend isn’t only confined to the Afghans, however. According to the National Sleep Foundation, 20% of Hispanic Americans between six months and four years old share a room with their parents.
So when you’re feeling tired and lying down somewhere nice and cosy to rest, think that in some other part of the world they’re observing completely different sleep habits to us, yet are just as comfortable! And remember when the Festival of Sleep rolls around each year, to take advantage of it and put in an extra day off to catch up on your shuteye after Christmas.