Dr Neil Stanley Independent Sleep Expert
© Dr. Neil Stanley 2013-2024
The Japanese art of sleep I once had the pleasure to attend an excellent lecture by Dr. Brigitte Steger, an expert on the Japanese sleep. The Japanese have a number of words for different types of naps including; on’ne being online and falling asleep from the time of dial-up modem (in the days when you would wait ages for a page to load) and issui, a nap whilst waiting for a pot of rice to boil. However the most interesting concept is that of inemuri, ‘asleep but present’ this is where you are asleep in a situation where you are present for another reason e.g. during a lecture or meeting. The important thing about inemuri is that you have a posture as though you were listening and whilst you appear to be asleep you are in fact able to contribute to the situation when called up. Therefore inemuri is not a nap per se, more dozing or daydreaming with your eyes closed. Inemuri is acceptable because it shows that you must be tired from working so hard and for this reason it is also not considered embarrassing to be doing it, although snoring or dribbling are considered bad form. The Japanese believe that inemuri actually aids creativity and again this leads to an acceptance of this behaviour. This is perhaps different from the UK where such behaviour would probably be judged to be due to laziness or having been out all night partying and would thus be considered unacceptable in the workplace. Interestingly one of the best compliments you can give to a boss in Japan is that they look tired as this is taken as a sign of their hard work and dedication. Should we practice inemuri in the UK? Given the fact that we are all working long hours and rates of stress have gone up there is perhaps a need for the benefits that may be thought to be associated with inemuri. However there would need to be a serious change in our attitude of seeing someone with their eyes closed as merely being lazy. We have all been in situations where we are required to be ‘there’ but have no useful role to perform so why not be allowed to be present but asleep?