Culture Shock: Sleeping on the Job

Tired All the Time

TATT! A lot of people are TATT, you might be too! In the medical field TATT stands for “Tired all the time”. And doctors are tired of hearing it as it is one of the most common complaints doctors ever hear in developed countries. With demanding lives, sleep is just less of a priority to more and more people. Experts are saying that sleep deprivation is becoming a national problem.

Americans have their own ideas about work and sleep habits, but the Japanese have an innovative, or possibly counter-intuitive, solution to this sleep deprivation problem.


Napping at work might happen from time to time, but it is far from a social norm. In Japan it is completely acceptable to sleep in business meetings, even on the parliament floor. They see it as a sign of commitment and proof of hard work. See below Japan’s former prime minister really working hard on sleep at work.

Japanese ex-prime minister sleeping on the job.

This practice is called inemuri, which means in Japanese “to be asleep while present”. Inemuri is viewed as a result of a rigorous work day in which sleep was sacrificed to complete the job. Dr. Brigitte Steger, a PHD in Japanese studies, says they just might be right about this one.

“The Japanese are right in their assessment that you work better       after a nap than before it. There’s a degree of machismo about it,   you’re saying look how hard I’ve worked. But that’s better than the macho rituals we have over here, like how late you can send a work email to prove how long you’ve been working.”

Rules and Downsides

Not just anyone can nap on the job unfortunately. Unwritten rules apply to inemuri, this mainly includes who can do it and how they can do it. Only people high up or low down in a company are allowed to practice inemuri. The person practicing inemuri must remain upright while sleeping. This is to show they are still socially engaged in some way. Inemuri is a unique balance of professionalism and relaxation that not everyone is so lucky to achieve.

In fact some people just pretend to. It is common for a hard working employee to pretend to sleep for a 10-20 minute period to make their boss believe they have been working hard. That is a great deal of social pressure!

So what do you think. Would a 20 minute power nap make your day better and more productive? 


One response to “Culture Shock: Sleeping on the Job

  1. Pingback: Japan at work | A Japanese Diary·

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