The typical day for an average Chinese working professional in an urban metropolis might look something like this: wake up at 7 or 8, commute via public transit for an hour, leave the office at 6 or 7 pm (if lucky, since 12-hour workdays are not uncommon), fight rush hour, get home at 9 pm for dinner, leaving maybe an hour or two before it’s time for bed — and then restarting the cycle.
It’s no wonder that for many city dwellers, sleep — or lack thereof — is a major problem. A recent report published by Caijing shows that in 2018, Chinese people on average sleep only 6.5 hours every night, a steep drop from the 2013 average of 8.8 hours per night.
In addition to length, 38.2 percent of the interviewed individuals said they have sleeping issues. This number is 11.2 percent higher than the global average.
Caijing also shared a four-and-a-half minute trailer of the documentary Chasing Sleep (追眠记 zhuī mián jì), which focuses on individuals from various industries who are sleep deprived. “You’re going to realize that lack of sleep and bad sleep actually causes us great harm and damage,” says Yuan Bo 袁博, the documentary director. “And in fact, the extra time we have [by not sleeping] can’t be swapped for extra productivity.”
“We focus on sleep issues and hope that everyone can have truly great sleep,” Yuan adds. “We would like to make people aware of the importance of sleeping and the severe harm that sleep deprivation has on a person’s mind and body.”
A problem recognized by the public
Sleep deprivation is not only a problem for Chinese adults, but for kids as well.
According to a report published by China National Radio, Shanghai kids between the ages of 3 and 6 on average sleep 9.05 hours per day, one hour short of the recommended 10 hours. Chinese media blames this on exposure to electronic devices such as tablets and smartphones.
Another article from Beijing News suggests that there are around 50 to 60 million people who struggle with sleep problems in China. The article cites an online survey in which 56 percent of respondents said they have trouble sleeping. The report further suggests that residents in first-tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen have more sleeping issues.
Many believe that life pressures are the primary contributor. “Chinese people not only have no sleep, but also have no fun, no money, and no welfare,” one person posted to Sina Weibo in a post that has received more than 4,000 likes.
“Housing prices are so high. It costs a lot to go to tutoring. It also costs a lot for medical care. Perhaps our pension will be gone once we get old. What can I do about it?” said another internet user, whose comment received thousands of likes.
Some social media responses have been more personal: “I have to get up at 7 am,” one person wrote. “Although I am tired, I just can’t fall asleep anymore.”
“I go to sleep at 1 am, and I get up at 6:30 am,” wrote another. “I get a one-hour lunch break.”
According to the National Sleep Foundation, it is recommended that adults between the age of 26 to 64 get seven to nine hours of sleep per night.
A story from the The Sun suggests that people in the Netherlands have the best sleep in the world. Stats show that the Dutch get 8.5 hours of sleep on average.
In addition to sleep duration, the quality of sleep also impacts one’s health, according to Dan Gartenberg, a sleep scientist who presented on TED.
For some reason, we decided to wear it as a badge of honor that we can get by on not enough sleep. This all adds up to a real health crisis.Most of us know that poor sleep is linked to diseases like Alzheimer’s, cardiovascular disease, stroke and diabetes. And if you go untreated with a sleep disorder like sleep apnea, you’re more likely to get many of these illnesses.