It goes without saying that the multitude of cultures around the world leads to different habits and practices, but did you know this also affects sleep? Take this as an example. In some countries, malls are open till late at night and the streets are bustling with activity well after dark, and in others, if you go out any time after 6 in the evening, you’ll be one of the only people around. Habits like these result in variations in sleeping patterns – and now, we know that for sure.
A Smartphone Application Study Revealed Results From 20 Countries
A study published by Olivia J. Walch, Amy Cochran, and Daniel B. Forger in Science, an academic journal, focused on quantifying the average sleep patterns internationally across several countries. The basis of this study is a smartphone application, made by the researchers for both Apple and Android devices, called ENTRAIN. The application requests that users input some details and information, and the second year of the study saw over 10,000 people using the application and being a part of the sample group.
Users would provide their age, gender, country and time zone, all to provide investigators with more information and variables to consider. Then, users would input their sleep and wake times daily as well as the lighting environment they spent the most time in every day, allowing for more comprehensive daily analysis so that a true meantime could be derived.
The study limited results to locations that submitted the highest number of results for statistical purposes. All in all, this totaled 20 countries from all over the world, with countries coming out on top with the most amount of sleep per night on average being the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom.
On the opposite side of the spectrum at the far bottom are Singapore, sleeping 36 minutes less than the average full eight hours of sleep. Singapore is closely followed by Japan and Brazil, and, at a slight distance away, Germany. Further individual studies and surveys that have been conducted in individual countries support these findings, and till today, they are all still very much applicable and accurate. But what is it that causes these countries to slump to the far bottom of this scale?
The Causes That Make These Countries Fall To The Far Bottom
According to the study, the truth is that the amount of sleep that individuals in each country receive is based mainly on social pressures. In fact, even among countries that get the most sleep, their bedtimes tend to be determined by what is considered culturally normal in their location. For example, America, which has an early bedtime and an even earlier waking time – in fact, the earliest – keeps what we can refer to as retirement community hours. Meanwhile, France, Spain, and Singapore have a notable nightlife scene and therefore sleep much later, and in Japan, the tradition of spending evenings socializing with colleagues and friends causes late sleep, too.
Is Sleeping Late Bad For You?
While sleeping late isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in countries where waking hours are naturally early, it can be a problem. In Japan, a country renowned for an industrious reputation that has them rising at the crack of dawn for work, the combination of late social traditions with this work ethic causes a lack of sleep. Singapore and Brazil are also known for long hours of labor, contributing to less time spent dozing off.
However, with that being said, it seems like it is bedtimes, not waking times, that ultimately determine how much sleep an individual gets. Most working or schooling individuals wake up at similar times globally, after all, and it’s the late nights that robs them of the sleep they need. This is the reason the study places the norms of society and friendship as the main cause of the findings and data collected.
Factors Affecting Sleep Times
When comparing countries, social conventions and work culture had the biggest and most obvious effect on sleep times. But that’s not to say that other factors don’t affect hours spent asleep, either – it’s just that these factors affect all countries equally. To start, gender is one of the biggest determinants of bedtimes and waking times, with women getting just a bit more sleep than men across the board in almost all countries. Age is a huge factor too, with children sleeping and rising at early times and teenagers doing a 180 turn to being late to bed and to rise. In adulthood, this shifts again, slowly but surely moving closer and closer to early bedtimes and wake times as one ages.
Here’s the truth: everyone needs eight hours of sleep a day. Even just half an hour less – as Singapore and Japan have – can have potentially detrimental effects. After all, over the course of years, even just losing 5 minutes of sleep per day adds up to 30 hours of sleep lost – more than a full days’, or almost four full healthy sleeps’, worth!
If you feel the need to stay out late even when you have an early morning the next day, try and find a compromise. If you aren’t getting enough sleep due to an inability to fall asleep, try putting your phone away early, or try to start winding down a couple of hours before bedtime. If lack of comfort is more of your issue, this site has detailed information on the best bedding for every individual based on their preferences. And, if all else fails, commit yourself to an earlier bedtime all around, and your body will greatly thank you.
Photos are pixabay creative commons
Guest Author Bio
Lauren Hall is the founder of Sleepedia, a web site focused on helping those who struggle with getting a good nights sleep.