Sleep disorder is on the rise in China as an effect of changing diet and lifestyle.
On of the most trending sleep related diseases in China is sleep apnea – a serious condition where a person’s breathing stops abnormally during sleep. The most common cause of obstructive sleep apnea is excess weight and obesity, and the Chinese are quickly getting fatter, according to several studies.
According to Dr Han Fang, president of the China Sleep Research Society and director of the Sleep Centre at Peking University People’s Hospital, some 60 million people in China are suffering from sleep apnea. However, less than 1 percent of these are actually diagnosed, while less than 0.1 percent gets treated.
“Due to the under development of sleep medicine, the sleep medical service is far from the people’s demand”, he said.
Today China only has one or two beds for sleep testing per million citizens, compared to ten beds per million citizens in Germany, he said.
Several studies have suggested that Asians are more likely to suffer from sleep apnea than Caucasians, because of facial structures that result in smaller upper airways, according to a Reuters report. One 2011 study published in the journal Sleep and Breathing found that nearly 70 percent of Asian subjects had some form of sleep apnea.
Now, rising income levels among the Chinese and changing eating habits in China have brought new health problems, including increased rates of obstructive sleep apnea.
Research by teams from Peking University and the University of Pennsylvania said last year that more than one in five Chinese adults suffer from the most common type of sleep apnea and that increasing sleep-related illnesses has become a public health concern.
The report suggested the use of telemedicine – remote diagnosis and treatment of patients by means of telecommunications technology – to help grassroots doctors and hospitals in remote areas enhance treatment.
The World Sleep Day on March 17, organized by the World Sleep Society, aims to tackle the issue of sleep apnea as well as spread awareness about the importance of sleep in areas of medicine, education, social aspects and driving. Each individual country will have its own annual topic and this year China is focusing on chronic diseases related to sleep disorder.
“We think the awareness of sleep and chronic disease is the priority in China”, said Han Fang, who is one of the people behind of the event in China.
Some 40 percent of all people in China suffer from some sort of sleep disorder, other data shows.
Han Fang explained that lack of sleep is often result of people sacrificing sleep for work, entertainment and studies. He also said that the problem with sleep disorder is considerably higher in Asia than other parts of the world.
“As Asia is one of the most rapidly moving area, sleep deprivation or lack of sleep is often due to shift work, travel, jet lag, work hours that are too long…” he said. “Asia is not so developed in sleep medicine and sleep education, and the public awareness of sleep is low.”
Sleep apnea is a common disorder in which you have one or more pauses in breathing or shallow breaths while you sleep. Breathing pauses can last from a few seconds to minutes. They may occur 30 times or more an hour. Typically, normal breathing then starts again, sometimes with a loud snort or choking sound. Its closely correlated to obesity and is associated with soft tissue in the mouth and throat. During sleep, when throat and tongue muscles are more relaxed, this soft tissue can cause the airway to become blocked.
According to the latest reports from the World Health Organization, China has the world’s second highest number of obese people. World Obesity Federation expects China to have the most obese children in the world in 2025 with WHO stating that in 2014 nearly half of the children under 5 who were overweight or obese lived in Asia.