While staring at your computer screen at work, have you ever felt your eyelids droop, and sleep descend? At such moments, it may feel like every cell in your body wants to nap, but you have to shake yourself awake and stop from succumbing to the lure of sleep.
Click start to play today’s Spell It, where we explore ‘napping’ cultures around the world.
This struggle to keep oneself awake post-lunch is a moot point in some countries, because napping is often encouraged – and not just for toddlers. Across the globe, several cultures have considered afternoon rest to be the norm for centuries. Here are a few notable examples:
1. Riposo, Italy
A ‘riposo’ or ‘retreat’ from the hottest part of the day has been a common custom for over a thousand years, not just in Italy, but in Spain as well, where nap time is called ‘siesta’. Depending on a person’s location, a riposo may take place anywhere between 1pm and 5pm. In the past, shop owners would shutter their stores and go home, where they would enjoy homecooked lunch and a snooze, before returning to work. Although the custom has faded away in major cities in Italy, it still exists in many parts of the country.
2. Uti, Iceland
Iceland’s cold, windy climate may be reason enough for you to stay indoors and curl up in a blanket. But hardy Icelanders are trained to nap ‘outside’ or ‘uti’ since infancy! Icelandic people commonly believe that napping outdoors is good for health, because the fresh air helps build healthy lungs. It’s why you may even find unattended strollers parked outside cafés, with napping babies inside, resting serenely.
3. Inemuri, Japan
Japan is known for its bright lights, bustling cities and hard-working people – but this comes at a cost. According to a May 2016 study in the journal Science Advances, Japanese people sleep the fewest hours each night, when compared with other nations. To keep up with their frantic pace of life, the Japanese have developed a way to catch a few winks of sleep no matter where they are or what they’re doing. Called ‘inemuri’, which means ‘being present while asleep’, the practice is like a blitz nap – individuals close their eyes and snooze any time they find a few minutes to spare, whether it’s on the bus, in the park or between meetings. Although inemuri rest is very short, it’s just enough to recharge the body and mind, so that the person can go about his/her day feeling slightly energised.
4. Wushui, China
Taking an afternoon nap (wushui) or a mid-day nap (shui wujiao) is a common practice in China. In fact, it’s encouraged right from kindergarten, where napping is a mandatory activity, and those who break the rules may be punished for disturbing other nappers. Even as adults, napping on the job doesn’t have negative associations – employers don’t mind their workers napping for a short while at their desks, since it’s thought to be a way to improve concentration and fuel creativity.
Are you a mid-day napper? Play today’s Spell It and tell us what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org.