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Young Chinese search for a good night's sleep
Last Updated: 2018-03-22 08:09 | Xinhua
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Doctor Sun Wei recalls a patient who downed a bottle of sleeping pills four years ago. The anxious family thought it was a suicide bid, but the patient said he just wanted to sleep.

Sun, 37, was one of the first sleep physicians at Peking University Sixth Hospital, which specializes in psychiatric treatments. Sleep medicine emerged in China in the 1980s. Before then, insomnia treatments were regarded as unnecessary.

Now, sleeping disorders are commonly discussed. A survey by the sleep medicine committee of the Chinese Medical Doctors Association shows more than 60 percent of world's adult population doesn't sleep well.

The survey was conducted to mark the 18th World Sleep Day on Wednesday.

Young Chinese, in particular, sleep poorly. About 75 percent of those under 30 suffer from sleep disorders due to depression, nervousness and anxiety. Work pressure, obesity and poor eating can also affect sleep quality.

The use of smartphones, computers and other electronic devices is regarded as one of the major causes of insomnia. Lu Lin, director of Peking University Mental Health Institute, says screens emit a blue light that stimulates the optic nerve, leading to a substantial reduction of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep.

The survey showed that media professionals, IT programmers and e-commerce practitioners suffer insomnia most. The Chinese Sleep Research Society released a report last year showing that 93.8 percent of Chinese young people spend time online before going to bed.

Ironically, young people are also likely to turn to smartphones and computers to combat insomnia.

A report last December by AliHealth and AliData showed that almost 79 percent of people searching "insomnia" on Alibaba's online shopping platforms were aged 18 to 35. The most popular products were medicines to calm the nerves and head massagers.

Figures from Taobao show 23.832 million people were shopping between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. in 2012.

Sun has been writing a "Sleep Diary" on social media, sharing knowledge and therapies, to raise public awareness of insomnia.

"Transient insomnia does not affect health. But if you have difficulty falling asleep for more than three nights, you could be diagnosed with insomnia," he wrote.

"You need to see a doctor if the problems disrupt your life."

Wang Weidong, a leading sleep specialist, has developed a mobile app offering online diagnosis, medical consultation and traditional Chinese medicine therapies. The app has gained more than 30,000 users since its launch in 2017.

Folk prescriptions are also offered online, such as lavender massage oil, recipes and exercises.

"Our generation is more prone to insomnia, and we care about sleep much more than our predecessors," says "Match", founder of online group "Sleep Bar - Say Goodbye to Insomnia". Established in 2010, it has more than 20,000 members.

On social network Doban, dozens of sleep-related groups are active in the evening.

"Match" used to be an insomniac. He found that just complaining about the problem was no solution, so he began reading foreign books on sleep medicine and sharing them.

"Scientific methods are the key to improving sleep quality," "Match" says. "Ultimately, the cure lies with the individual."

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