Sleep Quality a Fleeting Chinese Dream

Sleep Quality a Fleeting Chinese Dream
Photo Credit: Shutterstock / 達志影像

What you need to know

'Three new highs: high property prices, high living costs and high overwork.'

Over half of China’s younger generation (ages 18 to 44) reported having problems sleeping according to a nationwide survey that also found sleep hygiene and work related pressure as potential culprits.

The “2017 White Paper on the State of Sleep of China’s Youth” commissioned by QQ, DeRucci and The China Sleep Research Society found regular and quality sleep among the age group deemed “the nation’s most energetic and the main force behind social development” to be a fleeting dream.

Compounding the concerning data was a more recent survey completed in late June, which found that more than 60 percent of white collar workers in China believed themselves to be suffering from obesity caused by lack of sleep, overwork and increased stress.

Professor Zhang Xiangmin, director of the Department of Sleep and Respiratory Disorders at the No. 6 Affiliated Hospital of Sun Yat-sen University in Guangzhou, pointed out that long-term insomnia can cause physical and mental impairment, including decreased mental capacity, decreased reaction times, low immunity and endocrine disorders.

A staggering 91.4 percent reported “sleep deprivation and trouble awakening” or feeling “fatigued despite having slept.” Only 11.2 percent of those surveyed slept through the night without interruptions while over a third were kept awake because of mental pressure.

Forty percent found that getting a good night’s rest was “a very difficult prospect” while 13.5 percent indicated that poor sleeping quality to be a chronic problem.

Left to their own devices

Poor sleep hygiene including with the use of electronic devices before bed was evident in the survey results. It found that more than 90 percent of those surveyed were using smartphones or other devices to play games, chat online or engage on social media before bedtime.

Comparatively, only 6.7 percent chose to relax before bedtime (listening to soothing music, yoga and other relaxation methods). Sixty percent also preferred watching a film to reading a book before sleeping.

Studies have shown that using devices like smartphones, tablets and computers close to bedtime has been found to deplete the quality of sleep due to the exposure of blue light on the eyes.

A nation of workaholics

Work pressure and the lack of regular sleeping patterns have also impinged on sleep quality. Seventy-seven percent said that their sleep quality was affected by work pressure and anxiety. Other leading factors included staying up late (48 percent) and feeling “low” (42.8 percent). The ability “to put one’s sleep ahead of work” was below 20 percent across all income levels surveyed.

Less than a fifth of respondents said they were able to drop everything work related before bedtime while close to a quarter (24.2 percent) said they would only hit the sack after completing all assigned tasks. Forty-four percent said they would complete the most important tasks before sleeping. Only 3.4 percent were able to adopt a regular bedtime routine.

“Three new highs: high property prices, high living costs and high overwork,” one netizen wrote in response to the results.

“[In] China, dog-tired and for nothing,” wrote another.

The World Health Organization has associated sleep deprivation with physical fatigue, cognitive impairment and other mental health complications, including the inability to handle stress and moderate emotions. It estimates that a third of the world’s population suffers from sleep-related problems.

Earlier this year, researchers in Italy published a study finding that sleep deprivation in mice caused the brain’s synapses to be consumed by other brain cells.

The white paper was based on survey data collected in March with a sample size of 57,661 respondents.