Is the Nap at risk in China?

Napping is a custom in much of China. My father-in-law, for instance, who is 84, naps every afternoon, and 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 every day.

Deciding to learn more, I turned to Google and found that “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.  I also learned that the Internet and the modern-urban lifestyle have cut into the old habit of napping.

In fact, micro-blogging in China has had an impact on this centuries old custom. 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,” and that might explain why “most Chinese schools have a scheduled half-hour nap right after lunch.” –

“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.”

I’m struggling to cultivate the habit of napping, but it’s hard to break old habits when you grew up in the United States where it is customary to make people work long hours for poverty wages even when they are exhausted.


Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the unique love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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