Cultural Traditions Around Sleep and Beds 

Sleep is absolutely vital for health and wellbeing, something that research continues to confirm over and over again. 

It has become increasingly clear, however, that no matter how hectic our lives may be, we can no longer afford to ignore what research is telling us about the importance of sleep for our safety and mental and physical well-being. 

Sleep practices and traditions often vary across cultures, influenced by a mixture of climate, history, religion, and lifestyle. Here are some cultural traditions related to sleep and beds from around the world: 


  • Japan – (Futons) 

For many centuries, Japanese practice dictates sleeping on a specific combination of mats and cushions. In fact, historical evidence indicates that the culture of the tatami dates back as early as the 8th century. By sleeping with the mat on the floor – rather than on a bed frame, as in Western culture – the Japanese believe it helps to relax the muscles, while enabling the hips, shoulders and spine to maintain a natural alignment during rest. 

Traditional Japanese bedrooms use futons, which are thin mattresses placed directly on tatami mat flooring. In the morning, the futons are often folded and stored, allowing the room to be used for other purposes. This practical approach reflects Japan's efficient use of space, particularly in smaller urban homes. 

  • Spain – (Siesta)  

Siesta means “sixth hour” and has been used to indicate the period of time in the day when shops in Spain and other hot climates would close for a few hours in the afternoon. This closing allowed people to eat, rest, and escape the heat. The typical workday in Spain would span from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. with a two-hour break for the siesta, then work would resume from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. The term siesta is also used casually to refer to an afternoon nap. 

The siesta is a traditional mid-afternoon nap. While modern life and work schedules have reduced its prevalence, it remains a cultural feature, especially in smaller towns and rural areas. Siestas are especially popular during the hot summer months. 

  • Middle East and North Africa – (Divan) 

 Divans, which are long seating structures, can be used for sitting during the day and sleeping at night. These are common in many Middle Eastern households, reflecting a versatile approach to interior space. 

  • Sweden - (Two Duvets) 

 In Sweden, the traditional sleeping method: one mattress, two duvets, two happy sleepers. with a separate duvet, You bypass many of the disturbances common to sharing a bed, most obviously having to fight for the duvet. You can adjust to your preferred temperature and blanket and are less likely to be disturbed by someone else’s movement.  

There's actually a strong link between poor sleep and higher rates of divorce, so staying in bed with somebody who annoys you is going to cause you to probably have a worse relationship rather than be a sign of the strength of your relationship”. 


  • Brazil – (Hammocks) 

Brazil, like many countries, has its unique culture, traditions, and daily habits, but when it comes to sleep and bed traditions, it is relatively similar to other countries. There are some aspects of sleep culture in Brazil 

In some regions, especially in the North and Northeast, hammocks are popular not just for relaxation, but also for sleeping. They're especially common in areas with warmer climates. The indigenous populations of Brazil have been using hammocks for sleep for centuries, and this tradition has permeated throughout various parts of Brazilian culture. Many Brazilians will attest to the comfort of a hammock for a good night's sleep.  

Brazilians are also known for their love of socializing and partying, and in many parts of the country, it's common for festivities to continue late into the night. Especially in cities like Rio de Janeiro or during Carnival season, it's not unusual for people to stay out until the early hours of the morning and sleep late into the day. 

It's important to note that Brazil is a vast country with diverse regions, climates, and cultural influences. So, while some of these practices might be common in one area, they might not be as prevalent in another. 


  • Greenland - (Sleep Facing East) 


 In traditional Inuit culture, it's customary to position the bed or sleeping area so that the person sleeps facing east, where the sun rises. 

  • Netherlands - (Box Beds) 

 Historically, the Dutch used "bedstede," which are built-in beds with doors. They are like cupboards large enough to hold a mattress and were popular because they provided privacy. One of the advantages of the closet bed was that it could be built into the living room and closed off during the day, making a separate bedroom unnecessary. The other main advantage was that, during the winter, the small area of the closet bed would be warmed by the body heat. This meant the stove would not need to be kept stoked at night. The door would not be shut completely but left open a bit.  

During the 16th and 17th century, closet-beds were much smaller. Lying down was associated with death, and therefore sleeping was done in a half-upright position. These closet-beds held two people, and beneath them were often drawers “rolkoetsen” that pulled out and provided beds for the children. 

like many other cultures, has evolved its sleep and bed traditions over time. While modern practices are quite globalized due to shared technologies and influences, there are some historical and cultural nuances specific to England.  Bedsteads and Four-poster Beds, Historically, the four-poster bed was a sign of wealth and status in England. These beds often had curtains, which helped retain heat and offer privacy, especially when servants and family members shared the same sleeping space.  

These traditions not only offer a glimpse into the diverse ways people rest around the world, but they also often carry deeper cultural, historical, and spiritual meanings. Embracing and understanding these traditions can provide valuable insights into different cultures and their ways of life. 


August 09, 2023 — Zahid Khan