The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Workaholics’ new tonic: nap

Fukuoka (Japan), June 21: For high school students everywhere, the classroom desk is often a place to catch a few winks of sleep. But instead of receiving a scolding, dozing teenagers at Meizen high school are more likely these days to find their teachers dimming the lights, putting on classical music and joining their students for a power nap.

In a nation known for its tireless diligence, the students have joined a repose revolution that has investment bankers and bureaucrats sharing lunchtime with the sandman. Meizen High, in this progressive southern metropolitan area of 5 million, last year became the first school in the nation to promote mental alertness by officially encouraging all students to take 15-minute naps in their classrooms after lunch. Several schools have followed suit, and others have said they might adopt the practice.

After-lunch naps have long been stigmatised as a sign of laziness in a society that experts call among the most sleep-deprived on earth. But, suddenly, they have become the latest rage, part of a mental alertness craze sweeping a nation known for its fondness for such fads. A flurry of scientific studies, books and high-profile news reports are heralding mini-siestas as an integral part of new daily regimens for enhancing mental agility.

Particularly popular in these regimens are activities such as colouring books that challenge adults to stay inside the lines of a Van Gogh painting and video games that are said to test intelligence with rapid-fire questions.

But the rise of the mini-siesta is perhaps the most noticeable evidence of the Japanese interest in gaining a mental edge. In the past two years, nap salons, as they’re known, have popped up in Japan’s major cities. One such salon in central Tokyo, Napia, boasts some 1,500 members. Fatigued office workers can take a brief lunchtime nap on a daybed there for the equivalent of about $4.50.

The Japanese have gotten the nap down to a science. Sleep studies by researchers in Japan and abroad have suggested that nappers not let their afternoon slumber last more than 30 minutes, lest they fall into a deeper sleep and awake feeling more groggy than refreshed.

To that end, Napia offers its customers a cup of coffee before nap time. Caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in, so the java kick acts as a natural wake-up call.

“My nap is such an important part of my day,” said Kunikazu Tabata, a 39-year-old asset manager who began napping regularly a year ago.

Straightening his tie and resetting his hair in the Napia lobby after a 25-minute power nap, he said: “With the economy getting better, I’ve got more and more work and am only getting about five hours of sleep at night. Without this nap, I’d be tired all the time.”

Email This Page