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Why don't the Japanese get enough sleep?

2023-10-22 12:25:00, Kuriozitete CNA

Why don't the Japanese get enough sleep?

Japan's Ministry of Health and Welfare has called on the public to sleep longer and better, after two recent reports determined that Japanese people are not getting enough sleep.

And experts point out that lack of sleep is the main cause of many illnesses, mental health complaints and poor productivity in the workplace.

The authorities published the list of guidelines for the right amount of sleep in early October (2023) and will issue a full report by the end of the year. The move was prompted in part by a 2021 study by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that showed Japanese people sleep an average of seven hours and 22 minutes a night. This was the least amount of sleep of the 33 nations included in the study.

Why don't the Japanese get enough sleep?

In Japan, 37.5% of men and 40.6% of women sleep less than six hours a night on average.

A separate report showed even more alarming results, researchers from the National University of Singapore and Finnish health technology company Oura Health Oy determined that the Japanese average only 6.1 hours of sleep per night, less than test subjects from any of the other 34 countries.

The Japanese Ministry of Health is now recommending that adults get a minimum of six hours, middle and junior high school children get eight to 10 hours, and elementary school children stay in bed for nine to 12 hours. hour. Children between the ages of three and five need 10 to 13 hours of sleep, the ministry said, while infants under the age of two should get 11 to 14 hours.

Why don't the Japanese get enough sleep?

The ministry's recommendations are a step in the right direction, according to Dr Masashi Yanagisawa, director of the International Institute for Integrative Sleep Medicine at the University of Tsukuba. However, the guidelines did not identify the cause of the lack of sleep in most Japanese people or propose any medicine to help people sleep longer and better.

"There has been speculation as to why people in Japan sleep less, but there is no definitive, scientific answer," he told DW. "My theory is that it has to do with Japan's fundamental values ??and work ethic, perhaps best summed up in the phrase, "time is too valuable to spend sleeping."

Japanese began to spend more time working in the 1950s, when the economy was growing rapidly and the nation was pulling itself together to rebuild after the devastating years of war. Yanagisawa describes the period as "a state of national mania" as people worked hard and were well rewarded.

The flip side of this obsession with work, however, was that people slept less. And this was and still is harmful to their health.

"There are clear links between lack of sleep and a greater risk of depression, cardiovascular disease, some types of cancer, damage to the immune system and a variety of infections," Yanagisawa said. "And it can also lead to an inability to control emotions and moods, meaning people become angry, irritable, stressed and unable to control themselves."

Fundamental change is 'absolutely necessary'

Ironically, studies show that less sleep is also affecting people's skills in the workplace, with tired employees being less efficient and making more mistakes, causing companies problems and financial losses.

"I think the government has a right to be concerned about this problem, because I am also concerned," Yanagisawa said.

"In my opinion, a fundamental change in people's mentality is absolutely necessary," he said. "People have to set aside eight hours every day for sleep as a core time that cannot be touched. Then they have to arrange everything else around it: work, family, pleasures and entertainment."

The sleep expert says he's encouraged by the growing trend of workplace napping, or "inemuri," in Japan, which allows employees to nap in the office to recharge their batteries for the rest of the workday.

Why don't the Japanese get enough sleep?

Building on this trend, a number of Japanese companies are introducing products designed to facilitate perfect sleep.

In August, Hokkaido-based Koyoju Plywood Corp installed two sleeping prototypes, called Giraffenap, in a cafe in Tokyo's Harajuku district. Giraffenaps have pillows and platforms designed to ergonomically support a person's head, bottom, legs and feet for a 20-minute nap.

Pillow in the workplace

Separately, an Osaka-based company called Atex recently developed the "Gogo no Makura," which translates as "afternoon pillow" and consists of a padded headrest with a hole in the center. Users are expected to place the pillow on their desks and rest their head on the pillow to sleep.

"Lack of sleep is a very serious problem for Japanese people, and now it is becoming more and more acceptable to take a short nap at the office," said Michihiro Fukano, the company's director.

The company is also happy to let its employees nap on the job while using their product, Fukano said but noted that he doesn't use an "afternoon pillow" himself.

"I'm lucky. "I never have a problem with sleeping and I tend to sleep a lot, so I can go through the day without sleep"./ DW

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