Sleep Habits Around the World

March 17, 2005

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Sleep -- in all cities, in all states, in all countries, on all continents -- we all do it. But how well do people in different countries sleep? Do people in some countries have more sleep problems than people in other countries? How much time do people spend sleeping in different countries?

An international team of researchers from Greece, Canada and Japan looked for answers to these questions by surveying 35,327 people in ten countries. Questionnaires were given to all study participants (average age = 39.0 years) on March 21, 2002. Subjects answered questions about their sleep habits, their quality of sleep and whether they did anything to help them sleep.
Countries Involved
South Africa

Sleep Habits

About one-third of all the people in the study went to sleep at 11:00 pm and woke up at 6:00 am. The average total time people spent sleeping each day was 454 minutes (7 hours, 34 minutes). People in Japan spent the least time sleeping (average = 413 minutes or 6 hours, 53 minutes) and people in Portugal slept the most (average = 504 minutes or 8 hours, 24 minutes).

Napping was common in many countries. In Brazil, 42.4% of the people said that they took regular naps. However, in Japan, only 12.0% of the people took regular naps. Naps lasted about 40-60 minutes in most countries.

Sleep Problems

Poor sleep affects many people in all countries. Belgium had the highest numbers (32.2%) of people who said that they did not sleep well. Austria (10.4%), Germany (16.2%) and Portugal (16.3%) had the lowest numbers of people who did not sleep well. The symptoms of poor sleep included awakenings at night, poor functioning during the day, sleepiness during the day and a reduced sense of well-being during the day.

Various remedies were used to manage sleep problems. About one-third (30.7%) of all people surveyed said they visited a doctor about their sleep problem. More than half (55.5%) of those with sleep problems in Portugal visited a doctor, but only 8.0% of the people in Japan visited a doctor. Few people in Japan (15.3%) and Austria (9.8) used medication to help sleep while people in Portugal (45.7%) and South Africa (52.8%) often used sleep medications. Other treatments to improve sleep included:

  • Herbal teas (most common in Slovakia; least common in Japan)
  • Alcohol (most common in Japan; least common in Austria)
  • Altered tea/coffee consumption (most common in Austria; least common in Japan).

It's a Sleepy World

Sleep disturbances are a global problem. Overall, about one of four people in the 10 countries surveyed think that they do not sleep well. The researchers believe sleep disorders may be even more common. Some people may not report sleep problems because they think that sleep disorders are normal.

References and Links:

  1. Soldatos, C.R., Allaert, F.A., Ohta, T. and Dikeos, D.G. How do individuals sleep around the world? Results from a single-day survey in ten countries. Sleep Medicine, 6:5-13, 2005.
  2. Sleep - Neuroscience for Kids

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