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Pillows Optional: A Worldwide Mosaic of Sleep Styles

Laying in your memory foam mattress cozied up under the softest down comforter ever, it’s probably never occurred to you that someone might think that’s actually the least cozy thing they’ve ever heard of. Who doesn’t love sprawling out on a big fluffy mattress covered in pillows, right? Turns out, a lot of people.

Just like language, food and religion, what constitutes a comfy sleep spot isn’t the same everywhere. And we’re not just talking soft vs extra-firm mattresses. More like sleeping in trees vs indoors. It’s pretty interesting when you get into it. Here are 10 sleep situations that will change how you think about your own:

10 Culture Clashes on Sleep Habits

1. Missing Sleep Schedules

Here, nighttime = sleep time. But in Botswana, a hunter-gatherer tribe called the !Kung (not a typo) doesn’t have a sleep schedule. They only sleep when they are tired, no matter what time of day or night it is. They believe that saving sleep only for when you’re tired leads to a more restful sleep.

2. Sleeping in Public

Here, falling asleep at your desk can get you fired. But in Japan, napping in public is acceptable – even admirable. Grabbing a quick nap wherever you are – even at work – is considered to be a sign that a person is a diligent, hard-working person who simply needs a nap.

3. Kids Sleeping Outside

Here, leaving your child to sleep outside will get you a visit from CPS. But in many parts of Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, it is commonplace to leave a stroller-aged child outside in their prim during daytime naps. They believe this trains children for better day-sleeping and to be able to fall asleep in noisy or bright conditions.

4. Sleeping with Strangers

Here, it’s wholly not normal to sleep in the same bed as neighbors or strangers. But in Australia, some indigenous groups prefer sleeping together, lining up kids and the elderly in the middle. And in Japan and Korea, hotels with large sleeping spaces for strangers to sleep together is a cheaper travelling option.

5. Same Bed, Separate Blankets

Here, the old trope of the wife stealing all the husband’s blankets is a tale as old as time. But in Germany and Austria, it’s more common for couples to sleep in the same bed but with different sets of blankets. They believe since each partner has their own pillow and blanket preferences, it leads to better sleep.

6. Babies Without Beds

Here, babies sleep in bassinets and cribs. In Switzerland, babies are put in hammocks to sleep. They believe this aids in sleep comfort and quality because the swaddling and the rocking mimics the environment of a womb.

7. Sleeping in Hammocks

Here, nightly sleep tends to happen on a mattress, whether it’s a bed in an RV or a house. But in several indigenous communities in Central and South America, the whole villages sleeps together in a maze of hammocks each night. It keeps them out of reach from bugs and snakes.

8. Pillows are Dumb

Here, sleeping with a pillow is almost as natural as breathing. But in Kenya, the Maasai people find pillows unnecessary and uncomfortable.

9. Multi-Purpose Bedrooms

Here, bedrooms are bedrooms (unless you live in a tiny home or a van). In Afghanistan, however, bedrooms are multi-purpose. In the morning, folding mattresses are put away so the room can be used for socializing.

10. Professional Napping

Here, you’re lucky if you get more than 30 minutes for a lunch break at work. But in Italy, workers are commonly given 2-hour extended lunch breaks so that they can also take a nap before returning to work. They believe this improves productivity and sleep quality at night.

Sleep Styles are Specific!

The moral of the story is, a comfortable sleep means something different to everyone, which is why a custom-made bed is the way to go, no matter where you’re from. Now, we don’t make custom hammocks or anything, but we do make custom mattresses for any kind of sleep spot – RV, Airstream, truck, bedroom, sleeper sofas. You can tailor them to whatever your version of comfort is, so you know when your new custom mattress arrives at your door that it will be just as unique as your personal sleep preferences.


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