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25 Jul, 2013

Health & Wellness Update: China’s booming insomniac numbers


NANNING, July 24 (Xinhua) — Since she was recruited two years ago, falling asleep has been a big headache for Yang Shuai. The 24-year-old woman usually gets home at around 10 p.m., but cannot fall asleep until two or three o’clock in the morning.

“It’s hard to fall asleep because I’m always thinking of job-related issues,” said Yang, who works for a media company based in Beijing.

Her problem is shared by many of her friends, who commonly go to bed in the middle of the night, either out of work pressure or simply because they have grown used to being night owls.

Yang and her peers are among booming numbers of Chinese people who have trouble falling asleep at night, according to an “insomniac map” released last Wednesday by Taobao.com, China’s leading online shopping platform.

The map, which breaks down the distribution of insomnia sufferers nationwide based on sales of sleep-aid products such as blindfolds and earplugs in the past five months, shows that about 200,000 pairs of earplugs and 90,000 blindfolds were sold via Taobao over the past five months, indicating that China holds many people who experience difficulty nodding off.

Most of the insomniacs are the 1980s and 1990s generation, according to Taobao’s data. It also shows that around 23 million people visited Taobao.com between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. in 2012.

The purchasers of sleep-aid products are concentrated in big cities, where workers are conceivably more likely to have high-pressure jobs. Shanghai has China’s highest number of insomniacs, according to Taobao.

And most of those buying the products are youngsters, 36 percent of them aged 18-24 and 30 percent aged 25-29, the map shows.

The statistics echoe a March report on the sleep quality of Chinese people.

Jointly compiled by the China Medical Doctor Association, Xilinmen Furniture Co. Ltd and Horizon-China, the China Sleep Quality Index shows that 55.4 percent of the interviewed Chinese people have trouble falling asleep because of job pressure, while 56.9 percent are insomniacs due to other pressures in their lives.

Sun Hua, chief physician with the First Affiliated Hospital of Guangxi Medical University in south China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region, said that at least 30 to 40 percent of Chinese have sleep disorders, which is a big concern in society.

“A lot of people go to bed very late, have poor sleep quality and feel quite tired the next day,” according to Sun.

He said that bad life habits such as drinking tea, coffee or alcohol at night have bred many night owls in China.

An important factor behind insomnia is psychological pressure, added Zhou Keda, director of the Institute of Social Sciences with the Guangxi Academy of Social Sciences.

“People face much job and life pressure in an increasingly fast-paced world, which inevitably leads to sleeping disorders,” he explained.

He said that many people, especially the young, habitually use electronic devices such as phones and computers before bed time, which also lowers their sleep quality.

Zhou stressed that burning the midnight oil will damage health in the long run, saying that many young people’s health is already on the wane due to this unhealthy behavior.

The institute director suggested that people suffering from anxiety establish short-term and long-term goals in life, which could help them cope with pressure and form more natural patterns of life.

Sun Hua emphasized the importance of following a regular working and resting routine, advising people to avoid stimulating drinks before going to bed and to cut use of electronic devices.

He added that doing relaxing exercises including yoga and meditation could relieve pressure and would be a good way to fight insomnia.

“What’s really important is that people should follow the natural biological clock and learn to deal with pressure. Only in this way can they truly be free from anxiety and sleep tight at night,” said Sun.