Different locations, same procedure: whether in the subway, at the supermarket checkout, during a meeting – in some Asian regions and here especially in Japan a short nap in public is completely normal. The so-called “Inemuri” – “I” for “being present” and “nemuri” for “sleep” – is a real power nap and fix component of the Japanese everyday life.
But, what leads Japanese people to sleep in public? According to a study of Olivia Walch – scientist at the University of Michigan – and her team people in Japan sleep 7 hours and 24 minutes, on an average. So, the inevitable lack of sleep causes that they take every chance for short regeneration. While in Western society already yawning is rather embarrassing, power napping in public is a tradition in Asia and socially recognized.
Japanologist Dr. Brigitte Steger studied this phenomenon for years. For her, the advantage of Inemuri clearly is its regeneration effect during the day – if necessary, even without a bed.
But, there are also sociological aspects to Inemuri. Is the rickshaw driver sleeping in his vehicle he is protecting his most important possession. For some people it is easier to sleep in a noisy surrounding than in a quiet room; they also feel more comfortable in a crowd. In case of poverty, people often have to share their sleeping places. This makes a public nap very advantageous.
But of course, Inemuri not only happens amongst poor people. In Japan, business men, too, take a nap in public. It is a known fact, that lack of sleep leads to reduced performance and a higher error rate – in traffic as well as at the working place. More and more Japanese employers recognize this problem and prescribe their employees a power nap on their working places.
But, in Japan more and more schools start to think about this social phenomenon. A poll in Chikuzen, a city in the prefecture Fukuoka, revealed that 63 % of all students feel tired during the lessons. Thereupon, the students were allowed to take a 10-minute-lunch-nap, accompanied by Mozart.
According to Brigitte Steger, the secret of Inemuri lies within the correct setting and the proper duration. To her opinion, the meaning of other people should not influence the own behavior – if you feel like sleeping, take a short nap. Furthermore, she advices to limit the napping time to 20 minutes. A longer nap would enhance tiredness since after this period one would reach a phase of deep sleep.
In one of her works Dr. Brigitte Steger writes that polyphasic sleeping is not only practiced in the Land of the Rising Sun. In China, India and many other Asian countries people sleep when- and wherever it suits them.
More and more people in the West discover the efficiency and restfulness of a correctly performed power nap.
The short sleep in between has also been investigated in several studies. The findings are very positive:
- Positive influence on short memory
- Enhances performance
- Reduces weight. Tired people tend to eat more, especially fatty and sweet stuff.
- Protects against heart diseases. Taking a power nap at lunch time for at least three times a week reduces risk of heart infarcts by 37%.
- Creates good mood. Too few sleep irritates. A nap increases the concentration of serotonin in the blood and lifts the mood.
- Prevents states of exhaustion.
Image source: @fotolia