How We Sleep in Mainland China

At Jawbone, we care passionately about helping UP wearers improve both the quantity and quality of their sleep. It’s a critical part of our health, linked to improved memory and creativity, lower weight and stress, better grades in school and longer lifespan. When we look at aggregated sleep statistics, seasonal and cultural patterns emerge. For example, a few months ago, we compared how cities move and sleep around the world. Today, we look at a very special country: China.

China is the most populous country in the world with 1.35 billion people, and the second largest by land area. It spans 60 degrees of longitude, roughly 1/6 of the the Earth. It also follows a single standard time zone, Beijing Time. For example, on the first day of Winter (December 21) in the northeastern city of Harbin, the sun rises at 7:11am and sets at 3:51pm. In the western city of Ürümqi, the sun rises at 9:40am and sets at 6:35pm. For the southern city of Hong Kong, which enjoys longer daylight hours, the sun rises at 6:58am and sets at 5:44pm. How does this affect their sleep?

Average Bedtime in China

In this map, we can see how average bedtime is affected by geography and the sun. In the extreme eastern side of the country, where the sun sets early, average bedtime can be as early as 11pm. In the western and southern parts of the country, where the sun sets late, bedtimes can be after 1am. Our bodies' circadian rhythms, the chemistry that regulates our daily behavior patterns, use the sun to tune their timing.

City Rankings

Now let's look at the cities. One thing that we learned in our original study of cities was that no major city in the world averages more than 7 hours of sleep per night, and we see that in the China data. The Tibetan city of Lhasa gets the least amount of sleep, averaging 6 hours 22 minutes per night. Perhaps this is because of their prayer schedules. Suzhou in the east gets the most sleep, averaging 6 hours and 45 minutes per night. There is a well known Chinese saying about how Suzhou is one of the most beautiful cities in China: "上有天堂, 下有苏杭" ("above, there is heaven; below, there is Suzhou and Hangzhou"). Nearby Wuxi, similar in culture and history, averages 6 hours and 43 minutes of sleep.

While there's some variability in the average amount of sleep cities get, bedtimes and waketimes vary much more. The eastern city of Harbin is the first asleep and the first to wake at 11:27pm and 6:58am. The latest to rise is the western city of Ürümqi, averaging an 8:29am wakeup. Next are the southern cities of Hong Kong and Macau (basically China's Las Vegas) which go to bed after 12:30am and rise around 8am. Our sleep is not only influenced by our geography, but also the culture and character of where we live and who we are.

City Bedtime Waketime Avg Night Sleep Hours
Guangzhou 12:28 am 7:46 am 6.50
Shanghai 11:59 pm 7:28 am 6.70
Beijing 12:04 am 7:31 am 6.62
Shantou 12:37 am 7:52 am 6.46
Shenzhen 12:23 am 7:44 am 6.54
Tianjin 11:59 pm 7:26 am 6.63
Chengdu 12:20 am 7:48 am 6.66
Dongguan 12:16 am 7:31 am 6.49
Hangzhou 12:01 am 7:31 am 6.69
Wuhan 12:07 am 7:34 am 6.62
Shenyang 11:46 pm 7:15 am 6.65
Xi'an 12:14 am 7:38 am 6.54
Nanjing 11:59 pm 7:27 am 6.64
Hong Kong 12:35 am 7:55 am 6.58
Chongqing 12:24 am 7:46 am 6.53
Quanzhou 12:32 am 7:46 am 6.39
Wenzhou 12:05 am 7:37 am 6.60
Qingdao 11:52 pm 7:17 am 6.60
Suzhou 11:50 pm 7:24 am 6.75
Harbin 11:27 pm 6:58 am 6.71
Xiamen 12:22 am 7:40 am 6.48
Zhengzhou 12:01 am 7:28 am 6.54
Jinan 11:44 pm 7:16 am 6.68
Dalian 11:49 pm 7:15 am 6.60
Changsha 12:20 am 7:39 am 6.47
Wuxi 11:52 pm 7:22 am 6.72
Changchun 11:35 pm 7:01 am 6.61
Ningbo 11:54 pm 7:25 am 6.69
Hefei 12:02 am 7:25 am 6.55
Macau 12:33 am 7:53 am 6.51
Lhasa 12:08 am 7:26 am 6.36
Ürümqi 12:52 am 8:29 am 6.72
城市 就寝时间 唤醒时间 平均夜间睡眠时间
广州 00:28 07:46 6.50
上海 23:59 07:28 6.70
北京 00:04 07:31 6.62
汕头 00:37 07:52 6.46
深圳 00:23 07:44 6.54
天津 23:59 07:26 6.63
成都 00:20 07:48 6.66
东莞 00:16 07:31 6.49
杭州 00:01 07:31 6.69
武汉 00:07 07:34 6.62
沈阳 23:46 07:15 6.65
西安 00:14 07:38 6.54
南京 23:59 07:27 6.64
香港 00:35 07:55 6.58
重庆 00:24 07:46 6.53
泉州 00:32 07:46 6.39
温州 00:05 07:37 6.60
青岛 23:52 07:17 6.60
苏州 23:50 07:24 6.75
哈尔滨 23:27 06:58 6.71
厦门 00:22 07:40 6.48
郑州 00:01 07:28 6.54
济南 23:44 07:16 6.68
大连 23:49 07:15 6.60
长沙 00:20 07:39 6.47
无锡 23:52 07:22 6.72
长春 23:35 07:01 6.61
宁波 23:54 07:25 6.69
合肥 00:02 07:25 6.55
澳门 00:33 07:53 6.51
拉萨 00:08 07:26 6.36
乌鲁木齐 00:52 08:29 6.72

Sleep Disruption During the Year in China

Last, we look at how sleep changes throughout the year. The graph shows how bedtime, waketime, and total hours of night sleep change during the year for all UP wearers in mainland China. This also reflects the holidays and other events that caused people to lose or gain sleep.

  1. Largest sleep loss of the year: World Cup Final. There's a clear disruption to China's sleep during the World Cup from June 12 - July 13. The World Cup final, Germany vs Argentina, was contested at 3am China time on July 14, and UP wearers in China averaged 31 minutes less sleep than usual that night -- the biggest sleep loss for the country the entire year.
  2. Latest bedtime: New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve. China goes to bed the latest on New Year's Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve, at 12:42am and 12:59am respectively. Chinese New Year's Eve is also the night of the largest television broadcast in the world, the CCTV New Year's Gala. Roughly 800 million people stay up with their families until at least midnight to watch the show and usher in the New Year.
  3. Special Work Days. To offset the lost work days for Chinese national holidays, China designates some Saturdays and Sundays "Special Working Days," making them into weekdays. Holidays tend to help people recover sleep, like the National Day Golden Week in early October. However, two days from the weekends before and after, Sunday, September 28 and Saturday, October 11, were special working days. On those days, people lost some of the sleep they normally get on weekends.
  4. Single's Day, Chinese Cyber Monday. We can see evidence for a relatively new holiday on 11/11, Single's Day (get it?), when single youth in their 20s and 30s get together for blind dates and karaoke. In 2009, Alibaba launched a sale on that day, which has ballooned into a $9.3 billion sale event as of 2014 (compare that to $2 billion of Cyber Monday in the United States 2014). People stay up late on 11/10 for the online sales.

By examining the sleep patterns of China, we can see fascinating aspects of Chinese geography and culture.

Technical Notes. This study was based on hundreds of thousands of UP wearers who track their sleep using UP by Jawbone. Less populous areas were blended with neighboring areas to generate significant results. This technique revealed patterns at finer granularity than the province level. The difference between bedtime and waketime is greater than total hours of sleep, because total hours of sleep removes time awake in bed (falling asleep, waking up in the middle of the night). All data is anonymized and presented in aggregate.

About The Author

Brian Wilt

Brian leads an engineering team building personalized health insights and coaching. At Jawbone, he makes data human. He coaches kids volleyball. He earned his PhD studying neuroscience and applied physics at Stanford (go Card), and before that, high-energy physics at CERN and MIT. Follow him @brianwilt.