BJU expert explains ways of improving sleep quality

A BJU technician explains sleep procedures to a patient. Photo: Courtesy of BJU

The incidence of insomnia among Chinese adults was 38.2 percent in 2020, meaning more than 300 million people suffer from sleep disorders, according to a report released by the Chinese Sleep Research Society. Sleep disorders have become a prominent problem affecting society at large, especially in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although people are spending more time sleeping at home, a growing number of them are struggling to get the quality of sleep needed to lead a productive life.

According to Wang Xuehua, a sleep medicine doctor at Beijing United Family Hospital (BJU), sleep is important, accounting for a third of lifespan. Long-term sleep disorders increase the risk of physical and mental diseases such as cardiovascular disease, mental illness, metabolic diseases, diabetes and possibly cancer.

To date, insomnia and sleep-related breathing disorders such as obstructive sleep apnea are the most common sleep problems, Wang noted. Snoring is a sound caused by the vibration of the soft tissues of the upper airways during sleep. According to Wang, habitual snoring is very common among people between the ages of 30 and 60, 44 percent of men and 28 percent of women. Although snoring is an acoustic phenomenon, its existence indicates that the patient’s upper airway may be partially or completely blocked during sleep. Loud snoring, irregular and intermittent, may indicate that obstructive sleep apnea and hypopnea have occurred. The most common causes of upper airway narrowing include obesity, nasal congestion, hypertrophy of the tonsils and adenoids, and decreased thyroid function.

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) is the most common sleep-related breathing disorder. OSA occurs mainly in older men, but can also affect women and children. Incidence increases after menopause, so rates are similar in postmenopausal women and men. Apneas and hypopneas can cause blood oxygen saturation decreases, carbon dioxide concentration increases, and sleep fragmentation. The long-term persistence of these diseases can lead to further weight gain, memory loss, poor concentration, high blood pressure, diabetes and even cancer.

“Insomnia is also a common sleep problem. It can be associated with acute stress, medication or other substances, poor sleep habits, or changes in the sleep environment,” Wang said. Diagnosing insomnia requires three main components: persistent sleep disturbances, adequate sleep, and associated daytime dysfunction.

Risk factors for insomnia include age, gender, genetic traits, history of physical and mental illnesses, and other external factors such as environmental and drug factors, and so on. Insomnia is divided into short-term insomnia and chronic insomnia. Chronic insomnia can increase the risk of obesity, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, diabetes and mental illness. It can also cause immunosuppression and increase the risk of cancer.

Wang Xuehua, BJU Sleep Medicine Specialist Photo: Courtesy of BJU

Wang Xuehua, BJU Sleep Medicine Specialist Photo: Courtesy of BJU

According to Wang, homeostatic and circadian systems are key factors in how people sleep. The homeostatic process controls a person to get a certain amount of sleep. Exercise can increase the sleep drive of the homeostatic process. Sleep and wake time (circadian rhythm) is controlled by the biological clock in the body, and melatonin is a necessary substance to maintain the biological clock. When melatonin levels don’t peak, people don’t fall asleep easily.

There are some simple tips to improve the conditions for a good night’s sleep, such as: For example, stopping conversations an hour before bedtime, not spending excessive time on cell phones, and turning off lights on time. Set the biological clock to a “sleep state” to help people fall asleep more easily and improve sleep quality. More importantly, people should develop a proper understanding of sleep. As long as the next day is in a state of good mental and physical functioning, it means people have had enough sleep, Wang said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *