Sleeping Around the World: Global Secrets to Work-Life Balance

Nov 20, 2023 | Anxiety+Stress, Blog, Health

In a world where the hustle of work often collides with the pursuit of rest, how do different cultures strike a balance? From the siesta-infused afternoons of Spain to the high-octane work environments of Japan, our journey will reveal the diverse ways in which societies value and integrate sleep into their daily lives. As we traverse continents, we will uncover the profound impact of sleep on our health, productivity, and overall happiness. So, let us embark on this enlightening voyage to discover how the world sleeps and works, and perhaps find inspiration to enhance our own work-life balance.

Sleep Around the World: Understanding Work-Life Balance Globally

The USA’s 24/7 Work Culture

The United States often champions a ‘sleepless’ work ethos, celebrating those who sacrifice sleep for work. However, this badge of honor comes with costs, including poor work-life balance and health issues. Thankfully, there is a growing awareness of sleep’s importance, with more companies offering wellness programs (Zlatopolsky, 2022).

Siesta Culture in Spain

Historically known for its siestas, Spain has long embraced the refreshing concept of afternoon naps. Originating from the need to rest during the hottest part of the day, the traditional siesta allows for a split workday, and, arguably, a more relaxed pace of life. Spain’s siestas, once common for afternoon rest, are fading due to modern work demands. Yet, the value of rest persists (Zlatopolsky, 2022).

Japan’s Work Philosophy and the Concept of ‘Inemuri’

Japan’s demanding work culture, leading to ‘karoshi’ (death from overwork), is offset by ‘inemuri,’ the practice of public napping. Now, companies are prioritizing sleep for health and productivity (Zlatopolsky, 2022).Recently, there has been a societal shift recognizing the dangers of sleep deprivation, with companies now actively encouraging healthier work-life balance and proper sleep to boost productivity and well-being.

Europe’s Approach

In Europe, work-life balance is often supported by generous vacation policies and a shorter workweek. For instance, the European Union’s Working Time Directive guarantees at least 20 paid vacation days annually, with some countries like the UK, France, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, and Sweden requiring 25 or more days (Mayer, 2022). France, in particular, stands out with its 35-hour workweek, emphasizing the importance of leisure and personal time (Mayer, 2022).

The Scandinavian Model

Scandinavian countries are often cited as exemplars of work-life balance. These nations enforce a 40-hour-or-less workweek and focus on “hygge,” the Danish concept of coziness and comfort in life, including at work (Zlatopolsky, 2022). Finland’s Working Hours Act, for example, allows workers to adjust their start or end times by up to three hours (Zlatopolsky, 2022).

The Role of Sleep in Work-Life Balance

The importance of sleep in maintaining a healthy work-life balance cannot be overstated. According to the 2019 Philips Global Sleep Survey, a staggering 62% of adults worldwide feel they do not sleep well, which can have profound implications on their daily functioning and overall well-being (Viens, 2019).

Impact of Sleep Deprivation

Losing just one or two hours of sleep per night can impair motor and cognitive functions as severely as going without sleep for a full day or two. This level of sleep deficiency can lead to serious health conditions, including heart disease, weakened immune system, high blood pressure, kidney disease, depression, diabetes, and obesity. Furthermore, drowsiness contributes to approximately 100,000 car accidents and 1,500 deaths annually, highlighting the critical need for adequate sleep (Viens, 2019).

Factors Affecting Sleep

Several factors can disrupt sleep, including worry and stress, uncomfortable sleeping environments, demanding work and school schedules, entertainment and technology use, dietary disruptors, and health conditions like insomnia and sleep apnea. Notably, adults in fast-paced developed nations like China, Canada, the United States, and Singapore are among the most affected by these sleep disruptors (Viens, 2019).

Developing Good Sleeping Habits

To improve sleep quality, establishing a consistent sleep routine, engaging in regular exercise, managing light exposure, moderating food and drink intake, practicing meditation, and creating a comfortable sleep environment are recommended. These practices help balance melatonin and cortisol levels, preparing the brain for restful sleep (Viens, 2019).

Correlation Between Work Hours, Wealth, and Happiness

Working long hours doesn’t always lead to wealth. The U.S. is an exception with its high work hours and GDP. Yet, hardworking countries like Seychelles aren’t as wealthy (Mayer, 2022).

Wealth doesn’t guarantee happiness. Iceland, Luxembourg, and Lithuania are happy without being very rich. Meanwhile, richer countries like Russia and Iran aren’t always happier (Mayer, 2022).

Learn More About Sleep Around The World

Our journey underscores one truth: sleep, in its delicate balance with our work lives, is a global challenge. Each culture offers unique solutions, reflecting diverse ways of life and values. Whether it is respecting your need for a quick ‘inemuri’ or reconsidering the structure of your workday à la Spanish siesta, there is much to learn from sleep cultures around the world.

If you find yourself struggling to achieve restful nights, Somnology’s comprehensive sleep services and innovative data monitoring platform are here to assist. Our offerings, including the pioneering SLaaS® (Sleep Lab as a Service) platform, revolutionize the sleep care experience by bringing the sophistication of a sleep lab directly to you. At Somnology, we place you at the center of our mission, guiding you every step of the way towards better sleep. For more information on how we can support your journey to improved sleep and well-being, visit our website and embark on a new chapter in your sleep care journey.


  1. Mayer, A. (2022, July 17). Countries with best work-life balance: 2023 worldwide map. Amerisleep.
  2. Viens, A. (2019, August 16). Are you sleeping enough? this infographic shows how you compare to the rest of the world. World Economic Forum.
  3. Zlatopolsky, A. (2022, January 5). Here’s what work-life balance looks like across the world. Real Simple.