Inemuri – the art of sleeping

Power-napping.  Sleeping on the job.  These might be considered shameful, or the sign of poor sleep hygiene.  But to the Japanese what they call inemuri is a badge of honour.

For salary-men and office-ladies sleeping at their desk or in meetings is be a normal part of their working day.  That’s partly because it’s widely socially acceptable – children do it in class, adults do it on the commute to work and back home, in parks and in cafes.

Partly it’s about presenteeism and the need to be at work for long stretches of time.  And finally it’s a badge of honour.  After all, what other reason could there be for someone to fall asleep at work or in class other than working hard or late the night before?

There are rules around inemuri though that people are expected to observe.  These also make it different to power-napping (or hirune as the Japanese call it).

Don’t let people see your sleeping face.  It’s quite acceptable to use your desk or your bag as a pillow, or just to sit with your face tilted down. 

Don’t slump or lean on the person next to you.  Sleep in inemuri should be self-contained, don’t rope in the support of people next to you, or find yourself sliding onto them.

Don’t snore.  You mustn’t make any noises while sleeping.  Partly that’s for good social manners, and partly not to disturb your fellow sleepers in the meeting or train carriage.

If you’re using an alarm on your phone keep your headphones in.  Again that’s part of not disturbing those around you, or bringing attention onto yourself.

Thinking about it some of these rules could be quite easily adapted as the basis for sleeping etiquette on the plane.

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