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World Sleeping Day: Addressing China's growing concerns over quality rest

By Du Yusi

Children receive sleeping tips at a kindergarten in Handan, Hebei Province, March 20, 2024. /CFP
Children receive sleeping tips at a kindergarten in Handan, Hebei Province, March 20, 2024. /CFP

Children receive sleeping tips at a kindergarten in Handan, Hebei Province, March 20, 2024. /CFP

Sleep, an inherent aspect of human nature, has increasingly become a global concern. Extensive research underscores the critical impact of poor sleep on various facets of health, including hormonal balance, cardiovascular health, mental well-being, immune function and even the progression of serious illnesses such as cancer.

However, in China, the overall sleep quality of residents paints a concerning picture: The average sleep duration of Chinese citizens is 6.75 hours and 59 percent of people experience symptoms of insomnia, with only 19 percent being completely free from sleep disorders, according to the 2024 Chinese Resident Sleep Health White Paper, published by the China Sleep Research Society.

This year, on World Sleep Day, to foster healthy sleep accessible to all, the China Sleep Research Society published the Chinese theme for World Sleep Day – "Healthy Sleep, Shared by Everyone" – with the goal of ensuring that everyone can obtain sufficient, high-quality sleep, regardless of age, gender, economic status, or geographic location.

According to the white paper, several factors significantly impact the quality of sleep among Chinese. One such factor is the extensive use of mobile phones, particularly prevalent among post-2000s college students.

Studies reveal that nearly half of this demographic spends over 8 hours daily on their phones, often leading to delayed sleep onset well past midnight. This prolonged screen time not only disrupts their circadian rhythm but also contributes to difficulty falling asleep, reflected in an average bedtime of 00:39. Consequently, these individuals experience late nights and struggle to wake up in the mornings.

Additionally, the lifestyle of working professionals poses another challenge to healthy sleep patterns. Many in this group adopt irregular sleep schedules, often staying up past midnight and compensating with excessively long naps during the day.

Despite these attempts to catch up on sleep, inadequate nighttime rest and poor sleep quality persist. Conversely, retirees generally adhere to a more structured sleep routine, retiring earlier in the evening and rising with the dawn. However, this demographic faces its own set of sleep disturbances, including frequent nighttime awakenings and early morning risings, which detract from overall sleep quality.

In shaping the future of sleep health in China, it is imperative to emphasize the adoption of healthy sleep practices. This entails reducing the consumption of caffeine, tobacco and stimulants before bedtime, establishing a consistent sleep schedule and engaging in regular exercise, which are essential components of fostering optimal sleeping quality.

Professor Ou Qiang from Guangdong Provincial People's Hospital emphasized the importance of individuals cultivating healthy sleep habits, including adhering to a consistent sleep schedule, fostering a tranquil sleeping environment in the bedroom and limiting the use of electronic devices before bedtime.

Humans spend approximately one-third of their time asleep. Sleep, along with exercise and nutrition, is considered one of the three essential elements for ensuring the normal development and health of the body, serving as the cornerstone of well-being.

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