Sleep crisis in South Korea: Lowest OECD sleep hours [National assembly symposium]①
Sleep crisis in South Korea: Lowest OECD sleep hours... 7 societies unite to advocate for improved sleep health awareness
enhancing sleep health awareness: National assembly symposium
Annual increase in sleep disorder and insomnia patients, sleep-related losses reach approximately $9.72 B – Urgent need for societal perception enhancement
MedigateNews co-hosts national parliamentary symposium to Improve public awareness on sleep health.
South Korea, known for severe sleep deprivation, records the lowest average sleep duration of 7 hours and 41 minutes, falling far behind the OECD average of 8 hours and 22 minutes. Korean sleep satisfaction scores a mere 2.87 out of 5, displaying a consistent decline annually. This persistent sleep deficit and deteriorating sleep quality have led to a nationwide economic loss estimated at 11.497 trillion won."
The 'National Parliamentary Symposium for Enhancing Public Awareness on Sleep Health' held on August 30th at the National Assembly's Member Conference Room marked the first-ever parliamentary symposium addressing the topic of sleep health. Organized by the Democratic Party's Representative Shin Hyun-young, the symposium was jointly organized by all sleep-related academic societies: the Korean Academy of Sleep Medicine, Korean Society of Sleep Medicine, Korean Sleep Research Society, Korean Society of Sleep and Breathing, Korean Academy of Dental Sleep Medicine, Korean Society of Sleep Research, Korean Sleep Technology Association, and MediGate News.
This event and article received support from the Government Advertising Fund for media promotion.
Despite being known as a country with the most insufficient sleep globally, there is a lack of awareness about the risks associated with sleep deprivation and sleep disorders in our nation.
In response, domestic sleep-related academic societies and associations rallied at the National Assembly to urge the government to formulate policies addressing sleep health.
Sleep-related Issues cause economic losses of 11.497 trillion KRW(Approximately $9.72 B), sleep industry set to expand to 137 trillion KRW($118.8 B) by 2026
Assembly Member Shin Hyun-Young, Chair of the Democratic Party's Special Committee on Health and Medicine, initiated the event, emphasizing the importance of sleep. She stated, "When members of the parliament greet each other, they often ask, 'Did you sleep well?' This signifies the significance of sleep. However, Korea is a representative sleep-deprived nation, averaging 7 hours and 41 minutes of sleep per day, falling significantly short of the OECD average of 8 hours and 22 minutes, ranking at the bottom worldwide. The average sleep satisfaction of Koreans is a mere 2.87 out of 5, declining each year."
She continued, "Korea grapples with sleep deprivation and deteriorating sleep quality, resulting in an estimated nationwide loss of 11 trillion 497 billion KRW ($9.72 B) due to economic setbacks and decreased productivity. It is now a crucial moment for the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the government to focus on the nation's sleep health."
Assembly Member Shin also pointed out the growth of the sleep industry, which saw its market size increase sixfold from 500 billion KRW(approximately $416.67 M) in 2012 to over 3 trillion KRW(approximately $2.5 B) in 2020. She added, "The global 'sleep industry' is emerging as a new growth engine, incorporating traditional sleep-related consumer goods such as beds and pillows, as well as items integrating medical, pharmaceutical, biotech, beauty, and advanced IT technologies. The global sleep market is projected to expand to 137 trillion KRW(Approximately $114.2 B) by 2026."
Moreover, Shin emphasized the need for the medical community to meticulously examine the sleep industry and develop viable alternatives. He pledged, "I will work towards ensuring that the National Assembly, the Ministry of Health and Welfare, and the entire government take responsibility and carry out follow-up actions from this point forward."
Increasing Number of Sleep Disorder Patients Reliant on Medication... Urgent Need for Improved Social Awareness on Sleep
President Kim stated, "It is widely known that Koreans have insufficient sleep. Through the COVID-19 pandemic, the average sleep duration of Koreans has further decreased. Particularly, there is a significant difference in sleep duration between weekdays and weekends. While the global average sleep duration on weekdays is 6.9 hours and 7.8 hours on weekends, Koreans sleep only 6.7 hours on weekdays and 7.4 hours on weekends, falling below the global average."
He pointed out the alarming lack of sleep among adolescents, saying, "Adolescent sleep is crucial for brain development and hormone secretion. In 2019, the average sleep duration for Korean adolescents was only 6 hours and 3 minutes, far below the OECD-recommended 8 hours and 22 minutes. Moreover, the sleep duration of adolescents has further decreased after the pandemic."
He expressed concern about the adverse effects of insufficient sleep on adolescents, including increased suicide rates, decreased attention spans, and poor academic performance. Kim also highlighted the serious issue of sleep disorders among shift workers, who account for up to 30% of Korean employees. He said, "Shift workers often suffer from depression and decreased quality of life due to their inability to sleep when they want to. This not only affects their mental health but also leads to fatal accidents and increased social costs."
Additionally, he revealed that the number of patients with sleep disorders has been steadily increasing. According to data from the National Health Insurance Service, the number of patients with sleep disorders rose from 495,506 in 2016 to 671,307 in 2020. The number of insomnia patients reached 684,560 in 2021, and there were 472,080 patients receiving treatment for sleep apnea in 2018.
The problem lies in the fact that many sleep disorder patients are not receiving proper treatment. President Kim explained, "The principle of sleep disorder treatment is cognitive-behavioral therapy. If cognitive-behavioral therapy does not yield results or if it is challenging to implement, medication is prescribed. However, there are not many hospitals that provide cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia patients. In a survey of doctors, 57% prescribe medication, and only 37% provide education for insomnia patients."
He attributed this issue to various factors, including financial constraints and insufficient personnel. He said, "Hospitals incur losses when implementing cognitive-behavioral therapy due to the need for a significant number of staff. Additionally, patients have to pay more for this type of treatment. Limited consultation time, patient demands for medication, and other factors hinder the proper application of principled treatment."
In response, domestic trends show an increase in the prescription of anti-anxiety drugs, hypnotics, and sleep aids. However, excessive use of sleep aids like zolpidem can lead to side effects such as sleepwalking and dementia, causing significant concerns.
President Kim emphasized, "The most crucial aspect of addressing sleep health in South Korea is societal attitudes. In an environment where studying and working overtime are prioritized over sleep, mere policies are ineffective. Creating a societal atmosphere that recognizes sufficient sleep as a fundamental right is the challenge."
Additionally, President Kim proposed several measures, including light pollution management, adolescent sleep management, shift worker sleep management, prevention of human errors caused by drowsiness, prevention of sleep aid abuse, appropriate sleep apnea treatment guidelines, clinical application of digital therapeutic methods for sleep disorders, and fostering the sleep tech industry.
Declaration on Sleep Health Announced: Striving for a Happy and Healthy Life Through Quality Sleep
During the event, a "Sleep Health Declaration" was read aloud by Assembly Member Shin Hyun-young, representing a joint effort by the academic societies.
Sleep Health Declaration
We declare the following to ensure that everyone can maintain a happy and healthy life through restful and adequate sleep:
Sleep is essential for maintaining life and the foundation of physical and mental health.
Sufficient and high-quality sleep is a fundamental human right, guaranteeing equal access to everyone.
Sleep disorders should be recognized as illnesses, and accurate diagnosis and treatment must be provided.
Continuous attention and support are required for sleep health. Ongoing research and technological advancements in sleep-related fields are essential.
Issues threatening sleep health impose significant societal and economic burdens. To promote healthy sleep, individuals must adhere to sleep hygiene, communities should create sleep-friendly environments, and governments must establish appropriate policies.
We pledge to respect sleep health and continuously strive to enhance it. All Sleep-Related Academic Societies