Sleeping in Scandinavia – 3 weird habits that help you sleep better

You’ve watched the handsome Vikings on History Channel; been intrigued by the dark, but beautiful, Nordic Noir crime series; you might have tasted the New Nordic avant-garde kitchen. It seems Nordic culture is everywhere at the moment. Perhaps now it’s time to learn how to sleep better, with these 3 strange (but healthy) sleeping habits of the Norse. Recent studies have shown some remarkable results about sleep in the Nordic countries, which answer some fascinating questions: Why do the Norse let their babies sleep outside in freezing temperatures?Why do Norse teenagers sleep late in the morning – and get away with it?  Why do the Norse not suffer from the winter blues?

1) Babies sleeping outside in the cold – child abuse or healthy habit?

What would you do if you saw a Nordic mother put a baby stroller outside a cafe, in subzero temperatures, and then proceed inside to grab a cup of coffee? Would you call the police or the child protection services? Or would you think nothing of it and continue on with your day?

​No one bats an eye at this in Scandinavia. Take a stroll through any hip neighborhood in Stockholm, Copenhagen or Oslo and you will find many babies outside in their strollers, sleeping serenely in the freezing cold, while mom keeps a watchful eye from the inside. The Nordic countries might be some of the safest countries in the world, but Nordic moms are not neglectful. They just have different methods of child rearing.

​Babies taking their naps outside in the winter is actually an old tradition, dating back to when the Nordic countries were agricultural village societies. The belief then was, and remains today, that the cold air is healthy for babies.

It’s not all superstition either. A Finnish study ( examined this cultural tradition and found that children napping outside slept for longer and with fewer awakenings, than children who napped inside.​

In addition, several studies have shown that the best temperature for sleep for adults is between 60 and 67 degrees Fahrenheit ( Any hotter than that and a lot of people find it difficult to fall asleep. Lower body temperature makes sleep easier to come by. That’s also why our body temperature is at its lowest just after waking in the morning.​

If you or your child has difficulty falling asleep, maybe try lowering the temperature in the room you sleep in. There’s no need to go subzero like the Norse though, less will do.​

2) Teens sleeping late in the morning

Teenagers don’t like to get up in the morning. We all know that, but is it really their fault, or is something else going on?

​Swedish school principals think so. (

​Many Swedish high schools have moved the hour for first class from 8am to 9.30am.


​They say it improves concentration and productivity.

​Nordic countries are known to be rather lax in discipline with children, but this isn’t a case of teens taking over and running the show. Scientists have known for years now, that teenagers actually have a different biological clock. One that is offset, by as much as 3 hours.

When parents are getting ready to go to sleep, teenagers are just getting comfy for the evening. Likewise, when parents are getting up, teenagers are still in the middle of their sleep cycle.​

Moving classes to later in the morning makes perfect sense.​

You’ll have to petition your school board to make it happen though. Refer them to this article and tell them about the positive effects of a few more hours of shuteye.​

3) Winter Blues – Norwegians have never heard of it​

The winter blues, scientifically known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), is a common ailment for millions of people living in the northern parts of the world.

​SAD is nothing to joke about, ask any sufferer, symptoms of fatigue, lethargy, mood swings, can really affect life quality.

​Lack of sunlight has been thought to be the principal cause of winter depression. The brain needs sunlight to regulate its production of two important sleep hormones: serotonin and melatonin. Both play a crucial role in the sleep cycle.

​If SAD is such a debilitating disorder for millions of people, how come Norwegians don’t suffer from it?

​Scientists from Norway did several studies ( of residents of the Norwegian city of Trøndelag, but found no evidence of widespread SAD in the winter. At least not as far as insomnia and mood was concerned. Rates of both stayed the same year round.

​Other studies have shown similar results. Norwegians are simply not affected as much by the lack of sunlight and long winters as other populations. Some speculate this might be a genetic adaption, but most scientists don’t think so.

​No, it’s because Norwegians simply do not let winter get them down. On the contrary, they embrace it, frolicking in snow, strapping on skis and skates and enjoying wintertime, instead of dreading it.

​None do winter as the Norwegians. Days spent outside in the beautiful winter wonderland, before retiring to cozy warm homes for hot chocolate and home cooked sweets in the evening. Just thinking about it makes you feel a little better, right?

​About the author:

Bjørn Petersen is a danish writer and publisher of (, his site (in Danish) about how to sleep better and more comfortably.

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