Cultural differences impact on sleep patterns

Cultural differences impact on sleep patterns

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In a previous article, we learned that sleep patterns depend on multiple factors linked not only to a person’s age and gender, but also to environmental factors such as seasons and days of the week. A recent study conducted by Withings highlighted the close relationship between cultural lifestyles, and their effects on sleep.

With an average of 6 hours and 15 minutes of sleep per night, Japanese people get the least amount of sleep.

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This constant sleep deprivation may explain why many people can be found sleep while riding Tokyo’s metro. The Withings sleep study confirms the results of a study presented during the 6th World Congress of the World Sleep Federation.
As the week progresses, the Japanese get less and less sleep, until they reach an average of 06:02 hours of sleep on Thursday night. Over the weekend, the Japanese sleep patterns resemble other countries, however, they never reach 7 hours of sleep, even on Saturday night. Japan is one of the few countries, along with Sweden, that goes to sleep later on Friday evening than Saturday evening. On Sunday morning, we see that they do sleep in for an extra hour waking up at 7:45 a.m.. In Japan, the average time to fall asleep remains constant at approximately 12:20 a.m. throughout the year. There is only a fifteen minute difference between August and December, this is interesting to note as Japan seems less affected by seasonal changes than other countries, and more likely to stay out late on the weekends, no matter what month it is.

The Spanish appear to live according to a different time zone than their European neighbors.

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Spaniards go to bed later than everyone else, at 12:15 a.m. on weekdays and 12:53 a.m. on Saturday nights. Spain is the only country that falls asleep later than Japan. Unsurprisingly, the Spanish wake up much later than most other countries: around 7:30 am on weekdays and 9:01 am on Sunday morning. Due to these unusual sleeping patterns, the pace of life does not align with the natural rise and fall of the sun, causing more energy to be wasted and less productivity during the day. For these reasons, and to accommodate late night dinners, Spain is considering changing timezone
Unlike the Japanese, the Spanish nightlife is influenced by seasonal changes. The summer months are the most festive with a bedtime of 12:40 a.m. on average in August. Though this may seem shocking, a quick visit to one of the many Spanish tapas bars that fill the street when the warm weather arrives would easily explain the desire to stay out later.

In Northern Europe, people go to sleep earlier.

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Northern Europeans (UK, Germany, Sweden, Switzerland) go to bed earlier and get up earlier than the Southern Europeans (France, Italy, Spain). Is this a matter of culture or climate? In Northern Europe, we notice strong patterns between seasonality and sleep.   In fact, May and June are the months when Northern Europeans sleep the least, and the sleep duration increases steadily through December when it reaches its maximum. The average sleep duration in Sweden in May is 6 hours and 48 minutes, while it increases to 7 hours and 20 minutes in December.  The Swedes have the greatest changes of sleep duration during the year. One explanation for this is their close proximity to the north pole leading to stronger seasonal variations in the length of day and night. For example, they go to bed at 11:22 p.m. in September and 12:07 a.m. in July.

The US and Canada have very similar sleeping patterns.

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Americans and Canadians sleep an average of 7 hours during the week and 7 hours and thirty minutes on weekends. They go to sleep around 11:30 p.m. on weekdays and midnight on weekends. These patterns align them more closely with the “early bird” pace of the Northern Europeans than the “early to sleep” pace of Southern Europeans. Americans and Canadians sleep more during the colder months and they have a shorter night’s sleep in May: sleep duration is about 6 hours and forty-five minutes in May and 7 hours and 15 minutes in December. The only slight difference between the two countries is that Canadians wake up and go to sleep 5-10 minutes later than Americans.

Cultural differences have an impact on sleep.

This study allowed us to observe cultural differences between countries and link them to sleep statistics. Though this study was a great start in exploring not only different lifestyles between countries, but also sleeping patterns, further studies will allow us to have a more in depth look at the phenomenon of sleep.

About the data.

This study was conducted with a panel of Withings sleep products users (Pulse and Aura) including more than 10,000 people equally split between countries. Withings guarantees the confidentiality of personal data and protects the privacy of all users. Thus, all data used for this study were anonymized and aggregated. The overall results of the study are available here: www.withings.com/sleep-survey.

Susie Felber

Susie is a writer, comedian, and producer who has worked in TV, film, theater, radio, video games, and online. As the daughter of a hard-working M.D., she's had a lifelong interest in health and is currently on a personal mission to "walk the walk" and get her writer's body in better shape.
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