sleep Japan

(Unsplash, 2018)

This article is brought to you thanks to the strategic cooperation of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Sean Fleming, Senior Writer, Formative Content


The idea of getting extra pay in return for sleeping sounds crazy, but an upmarket wedding company in Tokyo – called Crazy – is doing just that.

The fraught subject of sleep is getting a lot of attention in Japan. So much so that staff at Crazy who get at least six hours of sleep a night are awarded points worth up to $570 a year that can be exchanged for meals in the company’s cafeteria.

Not getting enough sleep can trigger a range of health issues, including high blood pressure, stroke, and depression. At its most extreme, sleep deprivation can lead to confusion, lack of cognitive functions, and ultimately death. It has even been used as a torture technique.

Kazuhiko Moriyama, CEO of Crazy, believes Japan needs a new relationship with sleep. In Japan, there’s a culture of hard work and long hours, which can include sacrificing one’s personal needs for the good of the company. But this has led to an extreme problem – death brought on by extreme sleep deprivation. The phenomenon even has its own name: karoshi.

In 2013, 31-year-old journalist Miwa Sado died of congestive heart failure not long after working 159 hours of overtime in one month, with only two days off throughout. Tadaaki Igari, a 57-year-old mechanic working at the Fukushima nuclear plant, died in October this year of a fatal arrhythmia (an abnormal heartbeat). He too had worked prodigious amounts of overtime, logging 100 hours in the month before his death. A recently published government paper warns that teachers and medical staff are at particular risk of karoshi.

Sleep deprivation is very costly
Image: Statista

But for the employees of Crazy in Tokyo, no such fears await. “You have to protect workers’ rights, otherwise the country itself will weaken,” Moriyama told Bloomberg. His attitude reflects a growing Japanese trend to give health and wellbeing a higher priority.

 

The Japanese Health Ministry is issuing guidance for employers to help eradicate what it calls the “sleep is expendable” attitude, and point out to businesses the importance of sleep and the benefits of a well-rested workforce. Meanwhile, the Japanese Society of Sleep Research has warned that 71% of adult males in Japan routinely get less than seven hours of sleep each night. More worryingly, 30% of Japanese adults now rely on alcohol to fall asleep – a situation that could easily be the cause of yet more health problems in the future.

For businesses used to a culture of extracting as much value from their staff as possible, there are some very good reasons to change their ways and encourage workers to take better care of themselves. A 2009 study by Rand attempted to quantify the cost of sleep deprivation. Ill health and higher mortality rates were all blamed for an estimated $138 billion a year productivity loss to the Japanese economy – worth 2.92% of GDP.