Back in November 2010, I wrote about IKEA Sleepovers in Beijing. When I wrote that post about customers snoozing at IKEA’s Beijing store, I had no idea that napping was a custom in much of China. I thought it was because the beds at IKEA were more comfortable than the ones at home. If you have ever slept on an average Chinese bed, you may know what I mean.
The reason I didn’t know this was because my wife does not take naps. However, my father-in-law, who is age 82, naps every afternoon, but I thought it was due to his age.
Then after more than a decade of marriage, I asked my wife if her father had always taken afternoon naps. She said yes and that even at work in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution, the Chinese Communist Party bosses made everyone take a long nap after lunch—about two hours each day.
Deciding to learn more on this topic, I turned to Google. Middle Kingdom Life.com, says. “The Chinese, particularly those in the southern and south-eastern regions, take what could be called an afternoon siesta that lasts from approximately 12 noon to 2:30 p.m.”
I learned that afternoon naps in China are common, but that doesn’t mean everyone does it. Using Google, I also learned that the Internet and the modern-urban lifestyle has cut into the old habit of napping.
In fact, micro-blogging in China has had an impact on this centuries old custom. MSNBC.com reported that the Chinese government “sensitive to public opinion, especially stories of lazy or corrupt bureaucrats carried by massively popular micro-blogging sites,” cracked down on napping at meetings in an attempt to “instill a greater sense of duty into its officials.”
If this trend continues, this might seriously impact public health, creativity and learning in China.
Han Fang, a professor at Peking University People’s Hospital, says, “Lack of sleep can cause a significant lowering of immunity…”
In addition, the New York Times reported, “New research has found that young adults who slept for 90 minutes after lunch raised their learning power, their memory apparently primed to absorb new facts.”
“Other studies have indicated that sleep helps consolidate memories after cramming, but the new study suggests that sleep can actually restore the ability to learn,” which may explain why “Most Chinese schools have a half-hour nap programmed straight after lunch.” Source: Wiki.answers.com
Then from the China Post, I discovered, “According to the advocates, a short 10-20 minute nap in the middle of a working day can increase productivity by over 30 percent and alertness by 100 percent as well as improve memory and concentration. They also claim that it can reduce stress and the risk of heart disease by 34 percent.”
Maybe I should consider cultivating an afternoon nap.
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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[…] China, napping was (and still is) seen as a necessity for good productivity. You can now find nappers in Chinese IKEAs, as they are encouraged to take a snooze to show off how […]
In my part of China there is a general siesta from 12.30 pm – 3.30 pm though some government units and retailers do not commence operations until 4.00 pm.
School classes tend to finish from about 6.30 pm while work units knock off at 7.00 pm.
Many retailers here stay open in daylight hours in summer which with the one time zone can be anwhere from 9.00 pm to 10.00 pm.
The main reason is that due to a single time zone in China the early afternoon in summer leading up to about 4.00 pm is the hottest part of the day and people tend not to do business or venture out of doors in the heat.
The siesta remains all year round probably to maintain some consistancy of work habits.
My wife sleeps every afternoon after lunch as do the rest of the people here.
However. in Beijing our son works 9.00 – 5.00 with a short lunch break.
The situation here and probably elsewhere outside of the large cities is that people live close to their work and are able to come home everyday and have their siesta
One of my favorite weekend trips was always walking through Ikea in Shanghai and counting the number of napping individuals. I never took naps in the afternoons, but I can say from personal experience that the beds are not to be reckoned with. Most of my time in China I slept on a wooden board padded by a cotton cover. I always was curious why people slept on bamboo mats in the summer, and only until I had the pleasure of one did I understand the importance of a bamboo mat in the summer. They are naturally cool for summer sleeping.
Anyways, I wanted to also mention I remember a few years ago watching Matt Lauer in the morning news visiting a Mediterranean island that prides itself on longevity and healthy living. Amazingly the local seniors will sleep at 2am in the morning, wake at 10am for breakfast and a short walk, then take a nap in the afternoon until 1pm. They claimed one reason they had such a healthy lifestyle was because of the naps in the afternoon.
It’s an interesting article because as you said, the Chinese are not the only ones that take naps. The Mexicans have a time in the day they call a siesta which is loosely translated to mean “afternoon nap” in english. We in the US look down upon napping and pride ourselves on the hustle and bustle of modernism. I am curious if naps would be related to the mental stress in our lives? The point I’m trying to get at is, “Does a nap also affect our mental stress level?” I personally believe it is our mental stress that leads to our laziness and addictions.
I remember I came across a hilarious site some years ago on China’s napping culture and now I found it. Enjoy.
Nice post Lloyd. You’re back on track and get my 5 stars. You might want to provide readers with pillows though!
Thank you. I’m feeling the need for a pillow about now too. :o)