Oyasumi Nasai (Goodnight) – Sleeping behaviours in Japan

Universally, sleep plays a vital role in all of our health and well-being. Sleep helps to maintain a healthy mind and body, improves concentration, helps to relieve and cope with stress and more. Since health and well-being is a key focus for many brands, Rakuten Insight conducted an online survey with 1,000 consumers from its own proprietary panel in Japan to explore sleep behaviours and any problems with sleep.

Sleeping Problems

A highlight of the survey is that more than 63% of people have sleep-related problems of some kind (major problems: 8%; problems: 22%; some problems: 33%). This was especially true for younger people (20s: 68%; 30s: 67%) compared to those in their 60s, when only 57% stated they had problems with sleeping.

Specific sleep-related concerns are due most to ‘not being able to get rid of fatigue’ (40%), followed by ‘don’t sleep well’ (39%) and ‘wake up in the middle of the night’ (35%).  By age group, 40% of those in their 50s and 60s say they wake up in the middle of the night. Whilst the percentage of consumers in their 30s who had trouble falling asleep (40%) was approximately 12 points higher than the overall rate. Unsurprisingly, families with a preschool child had the highest number of consumers stating ‘I don’t get enough sleep’ (45%), which is 10 points higher than other life stages.

Causes of Sleep-Related Problems

For Japanese consumers, work stress is stated as the top factor for sleep-related problems (30%). The second highest factor was ‘ageing’ (28%). Work stress was highest for those in their 30s (37%), followed by ‘overwork during the day’ (31%) and ‘relationship stress’ (27%). By life stage, 51% of families living with a preschooler stated ‘taking care of the child at bedtime’ as the main factor for sleep-related problems.  

Amount of Sleep

The average amount of sleep on weekdays is about 6 hours. This was deemed to be about 1 hour less than the ideal sleep time.

The difference between ideal and actual amounts of sleep was greatest for weekdays compared to holidays. On weekdays, the ideal amount of sleep was stated to be 7.3 hours, whilst the actual amount of sleep was reported as 6.1 hours, a difference of 1.2 hours. On holidays, the ideal amount of sleep is 7.7 hours, whereas the actual amount of sleep stated was only 6.8 hours, a difference of approximately 0.9 hours.

As many parents would be able to guess, the difference between ideal and actual sleeping hours is lower for those living alone (0.7 hours) compared to families (1.3 hours on weekdays; 1.4 hours on holidays).

Sleeping & Smartphones

Despite consistent advice from health bodies concerning the negative impacts of smartphone use on sleep, phone usage persists during the night and close to bedtime for the majority of people. 57% of consumers in Japan stated they use smartphones before going to bed. As expected, this is especially the case for the younger age group, where the results were over 70% (20s: 78%, 30s: 72%) compared to only 31% for those in their 60s.

When asked what they do on their smartphone before going to bed, the top answers were ‘social media’ (34%), watching videos (34%), checking emails (21%) and ‘playing games’ (20%). For those in their 60s, where the total number of respondents using smartphones was low, the most common response was ‘watching TV’ (39%).

Before Sleeping

The average time from lying down to going to sleep is about 40 minutes. Interestingly, there was almost no difference between weekdays and holidays, with an average of 38.3 minutes on weekdays and 40.7 minutes on holidays.

By gender, women were slightly longer on average than men on both weekdays and holidays (Men: 36.3 minutes on weekdays, 37.0 minutes on holidays; Women: 40.4 minutes on weekdays, 44.5 minutes on holidays).

By age group, those in their 20s and 30s spent a longer time lying down to sleep before sleeping, perhaps due to using their smartphone in bed (38.3 minutes on weekdays, 40.7 minutes on holidays).  

Sleeping Posture

The most common sleeping position is ‘on your back’ (46%), followed by ‘I sleep on my side with my right side down’ (30%) and ‘left side down’ (19%). Sleeping on the stomach was only 5.7%.

The favoured sleeping posture differed by gender. The majority of men said they prefer ‘sleeping on their back,’ (54%) while the top choice for women was ‘I sleep on my side with my right side down’ (38%).

Washing Bedding

There are some cultural differences in maintaining bedding (futons) in Japan.  Traditional tatami flooring needs air circulation, and storing the futon allows for the sleeping area to be used for other areas. As such, many Japanese will beat and hang out their futon to prevent mould, odours, dust and mites.

According to our survey, the average frequency of washing bedding is about once a week for pillowcases and about twice a month for comforters, mattresses, and mattress covers. In a month, the average amount of times they wash their pillowcases is 5.1 times, the duvet cover an average of 2.1 times, and the mattress/mattress cover an average of 2.3 times. By gender, as could be expected, women washed their pillowcases more often than men, on average 5.8 times compared to 4.4.


Sleep is crucial for the health and well-being of us all. A few key findings emerged from this study looking at sleep behaviours in Japan. Firstly, the impact of smartphones on sleep quality is as important a discussion in Japan as in many markets around the world. Secondly, people do not feel that they are sleeping as much as they need to recover from their fatigue. Finally, work stress is felt to be a key reason for lack of sleep. Some cultural differences exist, such as washing futons (bedding) or the ageing population, meaning lower smartphone usage than in markets with a younger demographic. However, overall, this survey highlights the importance of sleep to us all in maintaining our health & well-being.

Related articles:  2022 Impact of COVID-19 on consumer behaviour

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