SHANGHAI - A mobile phone application that urges users to stop burning the midnight oil has become popular as more people put off sleeping while using digital products.
The application, named "I want to sleep early", will set off an alarm every five minutes if the user does not click "sleep" at the time he or she has set. Once the "sleep" command is clicked, the mobile phone will be locked for two hours.
"The intention of the application, which makes use of the pressure from social circles to supervise the users, is to encourage young workers and students to return to the healthy habit of going to bed early," said Yang Yuan, the 23-year-old independent developer of the application, who works in information technology in Beijing.
China's first sleep index report, published by the Chinese Medical Doctor Association in March, showed that 14 in every 100 Chinese stay up after midnight, and the flourishing use of new media is a major factor.
Nearly 70 per cent of the residents of the 20 cities surveyed said they used mobile phones and computers before going to sleep, and among those who kept late hours, nearly half said they were chatting online or playing games.
"I feel very tired when I leave the office every evening so I always tell myself that I have to go to bed early that night," said Xu Chenwei, a 26-year-old bank clerk in Shanghai.
"But the moment I lie down in bed, I pick up my cellphone to browse Weibo (the Chinese equivalent of Twitter), WeChat's Moment (a virtual zone where users share texts and pictures with their contacts), watch video clips or read novels. I feel that I haven't fulfilled my daily tasks if I don't do that before sleeping," he said.
Some users said the application successfully tackled "the worldwide problem of using mobile phones in bed", but others said it is too severe.
The alarm rings at the time the user has set. Clicking "sleep" will turn the phone to a dead brick for two hours or users can choose a delay option and choose "giving up sleeping early".
Hitting the delay choice results in an admonitory message being published automatically in WeChat's Moment.
Yang said the intention of the messages is to urge users to stop being night owls. He may develop a separate edition for Apple users as the application has only been available for Android systems since August.
Such tools are merely a new attempt to change people's bad habits through relying on their self-awareness, he said.
"Even if the mobile phone is locked, people can switch to their iPad if they still want to chat online or play games," said Yang, who often keeps late hours himself.
"It relies on self-awareness to give up staying up late and the application only works as a reminder, which will hopefully evoke people's focus on health," he said.