It’s a stereotype about Japan that most people are familiar with – the Japanese work hard, give their lives to the company, and stay at work until after the boss has gone home. It’s a country where karoushi, or death from overwork, is a commonly-used buzzword. While some people might argue that the Japanese don’t actually work any harder than those in the west, it certainly seems that they’re working longer hours than the rest of us.

But as a consequence, how much sleep are they getting?

Here’s what we imagine a day in the life of your stereotypical Japanese salaryman might look like:

6:00am: Get up early to a nourishing breakfast of steaming hot rice and miso soup lovingly prepared by your wife (or, in the case of Japan’s growing number of single herbivorous men, perhaps slurp down the cold remnants of last night’s cup ramen). Shower, dress, etc.

7:00am Ride the crowded subway, packed in like box sushi (sushizume).

8:30am Arrive at work early enough to make sure you’ve already been working for 10 minutes by the time 9am actually rolls around.

9:00-5:00 Work.

5:00-7:30 Overtime (paid if you’re lucky).

7:45-10:00 Drinking party with immediate coworkers.

10:30 Stumble onto last train. Nap. Wake up in time for your stop. Stumble to bed.

…and repeat.

It’s no wonder, then, that the Japanese in Tokyo sleep an average of only 5 hours and 44 minutes per night, according to data collated by Jawbone. Let’s compare that figure to the Australians, who sleep a wombat-tastic 6 hours and 48 minutes a night average in Melbourne. Lest we accuse our Aussie friends of slothfulness, however, it should be kept in mind that people in Brisbane are practically up with the lark – rising at an average of around 6:29 am each morning. But that’s still not early enough to beat the Tokyo salaryman or OL (office lady) – they’re up at around 5:00 am! But why do Tokyoites rise so early? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that most people have a long commute from the suburbs via public transport. As well as factoring in the time spent squeezed into a train carriage, commuters also have to put in quite a bit of legwork as well, averaging 8,293 steps as part of their daily grind!

For comparison purposes, here’s that same graph, showing the sleeping and walking habits of New Yorkers – it seems The City That Never Sleeps actually averages 6 hours and 47 minutes – around an hour more than the folks in Tokyo!


So what do Japan’s twitizens think of this lack of sleep?

▼ “Japanese people really do work too much, don’t they?”

▼ “Japanese people work themselves to death! So how come we also have such a long life expectancy?! lol  (⌒▽⌒) hahaha lol”

▼ “Japanese people barely sleep and do the most unpaid overtime. As a result, you get lower productivity and poorer work performance.”

▼ “Then why not change the labour laws? Do something about the politicians?”

▼ “I don’t think this is all down to working longer; I think we just have a lot more opportunities to go out and enjoy ourselves.”

So, what’s to blame for this state of sleeplessness? Is it a byproduct of commuting culture, socially-mandated unpaid overtime, after-work drinking, or something else? All we know is that the Japanese are going to bed later, spending less time asleep, and getting up earlier than anyone else – and for those of us who love our sleep, those are some sad statistics!

Sources: Jawbone, Livedoor News
Images: Wikimedia, Jawbone