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05/15/2014 08:40 am ET | Updated May 15, 2014

To Dream In Different Cultures

David Ryle via Getty Images

WHEN Doug Hollan arrived on the Indonesian island of Sulawesi for his anthropology dissertation fieldwork in a rice farming village, his Toraja neighbors wanted to take turns sleeping with him and his wife.

The rural Toraja almost never sleep alone. They sleep in wood frame houses with little furniture and flimsy room dividers, and they sleep on the floor together in groups, sharing blankets and huddling close for warmth. And so the Toraja have “punctuated” sleep. They wake often as others turn and get up in the night, or when a child calls out or another adult can’t sleep and starts to chat. Mr. Hollan never heard anyone complain about this.

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