Common Sleep Customs Around the World

This content was created by the National Sleep Foundation


Find out what’s really going on behind bedroom doors across the globe.

You might think that sleep is the great equalizer among people all over the world. And in some ways, it is. After all, all people rely on restful nights to recharge their bodies and minds. But how people sleep, where people sleep, and even what people wear in the sack varies with longitude and latitude. Read on to learn about unique sleep customs around the world that may surprise you.

  1. Sleep is a Family Affair. In most of the world, babies—and children—sleep with their parents. And the custom is a tough one to change. While the U.S., the United Kingdom, and parts of Europe are among the minority nations that expect children to sleep in their own rooms, immigrants from other parts of the world tend to stick with their heritage at night. About 20 percent of Hispanic Americans between six months old and four years old sleep with their parents, and 80 percent share a room. Meanwhile just six percent of American-born children share a room with Mom and Dad.
  2. Bedrooms Are Multi-Purpose Rooms. In Afghanistan, not only do family members all sleep in the same room, but in the morning, they fold up their mattresses and blankets so the room is available for daytime use. Even houseguests are typically expected to join the pajama party.
  3. Babies Sleep Bundled in the Street. In Scandinavia, it’s not uncommon for people to leave their babies by themselves to nap outside in strollers—even during the winter. In fact, children often sleep outside both at daycare and on the sidewalk while the parents are inside a café or restaurant. Many parents believe that the cold air is healthy for children.
  4.  Kids Are Night Owls. While U.S. kids tend to have earlier bedtimes, giving their parents a few hours of grown-up time in the evenings, in Spain (and Argentina), kids burn the midnight oil right beside their parents, often staying up as late as 10:00pm.
  5. Brits Drink Tea and Sleep Naked. Tea isn’t just for tea time.Forty-three percent of people in the United Kingdom have a relaxing drink, like tea, before heading for the sack. And a third of them ditch their jammies to sleep in the nude!