Sleep dis­or­ders ris­ing among younger peo­ple

The av­er­age age of pa­tients re­port­ing chronic in­som­nia and re­lated prob­lems is fall­ing, as Wang Xiaodong re­ports.

China Daily (Latin America Weekly) - - China - Con­tact the writer at wangx­i­aodong@ chi­

About two months ago, Xing Yan started ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­som­nia for the first time. “It devel­oped sud­denly. I was un­der heavy pres­sure from work at the time. I could not fall asleep at all at night, and was wide awake un­til dawn. I tried not to think of the things that were trou­bling me and for­get them, but the thoughts quickly re­turned, mak­ing it even harder for me to fall asleep,” said the bank em­ployee from Fushun, Liaon­ing prov­ince.

Be­fore the in­som­nia devel­oped, Xing had reg­u­larly ex­pe­ri­enced less se­ri­ous re­lated dis­or­ders, such as tak­ing a long time to fall asleep. He be­lieves his ten­dency to worry may be the cause of his in­som­nia.

In ad­di­tion to acute fa­tigue dur­ing the day, Xing feels he is ex­pe­ri­enc­ing the phys­i­cal con­se­quences of in­som­nia, such as an un­ex­plained stom­ach ache.

“I be­came very fright­ened when I re­al­ized I could not sleep ev­ery day,” said the 40-year-old, who has been ad­mit­ted to Pek­ing Univer­sity Sixth Hospi­tal in Bei­jing for treat­ment. “I may be ru­ined if this sit­u­a­tion con­tin­ues.”

In an at­tempt to over­come his prob­lem, Xing plans to rig­or­ously fol­low the ad­vice of his doc­tor, such as get­ting up and go­ing to bed at fixed times, and tak­ing med­i­ca­tion.

Sun Hongqiang, di­rec­tor of the Sleep Medicine Cen­ter at the hospi­tal, said his team has seen a con­stant rise in the num­ber of pa­tients with sleep­ing dis­or­ders in re­cent years.

De­spite see­ing about 100 pa­tients ev­ery day, the 12 doc­tors at the cen­ter are un­able to meet de­mand, which means many pa­tients en­dure a long wait be­fore they can con­sult a physi­cian, ac­cord­ing to Sun.

“Glob­ally, the in­ci­dence of sleep dis­or­ders is ris­ing,” he said. “In China, about 30 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion has sleep dis­or­ders, while around 10 per­cent fre­quently ex­pe­ri­ence in­som­nia.”

It is un­clear what is be­hind the rise in the num­ber of peo­ple with sleep dis­or­ders, but the prob­lem may be linked with fac­tors such as per­son­al­ity, brain-re­lated ill­nesses and dis­turbed life­styles, he added.

A man un­der­goes a brain scan at Pek­ing Univer­sity Sixth Hospi­tal.

Na­tion­wide prob­lem

Ac­cord­ing to a re­port pub­lished last month by the Chi­nese Sleep Re­search Society, 56 per­cent of re­spon­dents said they slept poorly.

Six­teen per­cent of re­spon­dents who had in­som­nia worked in in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy, mak­ing IT pro­fes­sion­als the work group most likely to ex­pe­ri­ence the prob­lem.

They were fol­lowed by bluecol­lar work­ers, sales­peo­ple and con­sul­tants, ac­cord­ing to the re­port, which was based on an on­line sur­vey of 2,000 peo­ple ages 18 to 50 in 10 ma­jor cities. More than 60 per­cent of re­spon­dents born af­ter 1990 said they had prob­lems sleep­ing.

While about 70 per­cent said their sleep was af­fected by work pres­sures, other causes of dis­rupted rest in­cluded emo­tional is­sues, en­vi­ron­men­tal fac­tors, such as noise pol­lu­tion, gen­eral ail­ments and life­style, such as ex­ces­sive use of smart­phones at night.

The most com­mon prob­lems in­cluded fre­quent dreams, light sleep and postrest fa­tigue.

A re­port re­leased by the society in 2016 said that 38 per­cent of adults in China have ex­pe­ri­enced in­som­nia.

In ad­di­tion, more than 300 mil­lion peo­ple had sleep­ing dis­or­ders, and the num­ber was ris­ing ev­ery year.

While some sleep dis­or­ders may sim­ply be an un­pleas­ant fact of life for many peo­ple, oth­ers — such as in­abil­ity to fall asleep and ris­ing ex­ces­sively early or far too late —

Han Fang, a physi­cian who spe­cial­izes in re­s­pi­ra­tory dis­eases at Pek­ing Univer­sity Peo­ple’s Hospi­tal, said fewer than 2 per­cent of peo­ple with sleep dis­or­ders have re­ceived di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment as a re­sult of the small num­ber of doc­tors spe­cial­iz­ing in the field and a short­age of hospi­tal beds.

Sun, from Pek­ing Univer­sity Sixth Hospi­tal, said sleep medicine is still not an in­de­pen­dent dis­ci­pline in China, which has ham­pered the ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing of spe­cial­ists, and also lim­ited their ca­reer de­vel­op­ment.

He said doc­tors who spe­cial­ize in sleep medicine in China gen­er­ally come from re­lated back­grounds, such as re­s­pi­ra­tory medicine or neu­ro­log­i­cal sci­ence.

Work­load set to rise

Ac­cord­ing to Ye Jingy­ing, a pro­fes­sor in the sleep medicine depart­ment at Bei­jing Ts­inghua Chang­gung Hospi­tal, the work­load of spe­cial­ists in the field is likely to rise steeply in com­ing years as a re­sult of China’s rapidly aging pop­u­la­tion and the grow­ing num­ber of obese peo­ple.

“The de­vel­op­ment of sleep medicine needs more sup­port from the gov­ern­ment, such as ex­tend­ing the cov­er­age of med­i­cal in­surance pro­grams to a wider range of ill­nesses and treat­ments,” she said.


A doc­tor treats a pa­tient with a sleep dis­or­der at Pek­ing Univer­sity Sixth Hospi­tal in Bei­jing.

A woman is checked with a sleep dis­or­der de­tec­tor dur­ing a free com­mu­nity clinic held by Bei­jing Ts­inghua Chang­gung Hospi­tal.


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