Like many others elsewhere in Asia and around the world, Chinese people don’t get enough sleep – and it is a problem that has spawned a big market in gadgets to help them fall asleep, sleep better or analyse their sleep quality.
Chinese people sleep an average of 6.92 hours a night, less than the seven to nine hours a night doctors recommend, according to a recent study.
While many of those born in the 1970s may be getting just about enough sleep – they average 7.22 hours per night – the generation born after 2000 sleep on average only 6.45 hours a night, the March 2020 study by the Chinese Sleep Research Society and mattress company Xilinmen found.
It also found that Chinese people typically go to bed around midnight, and take a long time to fall asleep – 23.5 minutes on average.
More than a third of respondents to the survey said they have trouble sleeping. That amounts to some 400 million people.
The biggest reason they gave for losing sleep is emotional trouble – 46 per cent of them said they felt anxious , some 18 per cent reported being depressed and 13 per cent felt lonely. Work and livelihood pressures were the next biggest cause of insomnia, the study found.
Another factor may be our devices . While this study did not get into the issue, other research suggests the light emitted from phones throws off our natural sleep cycles, making it harder to fall asleep after the device is turned off.
No wonder, then, that state broadcaster Chinese Central Television recently reported that the sleep technology market in China is worth nearly US$60 billion a year.
And it’s a growth market – more than 1,000 sleep-tech businesses opened in 2018 and 2019, with nearly two-thirds in retailing and 15 per cent in manufacturing.
So what sort of sleep-assisting technology are Chinese customers searching for online?
1. Monitoring bracelets and mobile phone apps
Wearable technology is hardly new for the public, but it is popular nonetheless.
Bracelets you wear overnight can monitor your breathing, heart rate, sleep duration and record the period when you go into deep sleep, to give you data about your sleeping pattern.
2. Musical sleep light
A night light, radio, Bluetooth speaker and alarm clock rolled into one, you can connect it to your phone and play music or white noise, such as rainforest sounds, to help you sleep better. At the same time, it can serve as a night light.
3. Sleep earbuds
Unlike headphones, these earbuds are designed to be comfortable while sleeping .
They are usually designed to cancel outside noise while creating white noise or other sounds for better sleep.
4. Massage chair
Nothing relaxes people better than a shower followed by a good massage before bed.
In recent years, massage chair technology has evolved so that the experience the chairs deliver feels more like the touch of human hands, instead of simple vibrations that can be fairly uncomfortable. Some chairs can also adjust their temperature to provide a warming experience.
Reports show a humid sleeping environment is key to achieving high-quality sleep. A humidifier, along with body lotion, may help you retain skin moisture, reduce scratching and promote uninterrupted sleep . In winter especially, it helps eliminate the dry air that can cause irritation, inflammation and pain in your nose and throat.
On the other hand, you can have too much humidity: people living in hot and humid southern China, as in other parts of the subtropics, often deploy dehumidifiers during the summer.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.