More than 2 million people in Taiwan have trouble sleeping, the sleep disorders center at National Taiwan University Hospital (NTUH) said yesterday.
Established in 2006, the center sees 2,600 patients a year, 10 percent of which are children.
According to outpatient data collected by the center, about 60 percent of people seeking medical attention for sleep disorders are aged between 31 and 60.
“The number of children and teens troubled by sleeping disorders is increasing. More than 20 percent of patients are children and teenagers,” center director Lee Pei-lin (李佩玲) said.
A night’s sleep is made up of four to five sleep cycles of two basic states: rapid eye movement (REM) sleep and non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep, and each cycle consists of 90 minutes, Lee said.
“As growth hormones are secreted during the deep stages of NREM sleep, it is true that kids who do not sleep won’t grow in height,” Lee said.
Sleep deprivation could negatively affect how a person’s endocrine system and metabolism function, Lee added.
“Sleep deprivation has been associated with a range of diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and polycystic ovary syndrome,” Lee said.
“There are several common symptoms of insomnia, including having difficulty falling asleep and interrupted sleep, waking up early, or fatigue despite getting enough sleep,” said Chen Hsi-chung (陳錫中), an attending physician in the psychiatry department.
“While acute insomnia is often caused by stress or environmental factors, chronic insomnia is often related to chronic illnesses, depression and anxiety, or drug abuse,” said Chen, adding that as 30 percent to 40 percent of the chronic insomnia patients have trouble sleeping due to psychiatric disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and anxiety disorder, the center advises them to seek treatment for those disorders before considering the use of sleeping pills.
“Finding the cause of insomnia is the fundamental step toward treating sleep disorder,” Chen said, adding that people should avoid stimulant-containing food and drinks, such as coffee, tea, caffeinated drinks and diet pills, four hours before sleep, exercise for 30 minutes at dusk and not oversleep during the day in order to beat insomnia.