Sleep Disorders

Updated 04 July 2014

The World Cup kills three Chinese fans

Chinese fans die from sleep deprivation after staying up late to watch the World Cup.

Sleep deprivation has been a factor in some of the biggest disasters in history: 1979’s nuclear accident at Three Mile Island, 1986’s Chernobyl disaster, 1989’s Exxon Valdez oil spill and 1999’s American Airlines Flight 1420 Crash, to name a few.  

Sleep deprivation due to Internet and television obsession has been a growing problem in China. In just this month alone, three Chinese citizens have died due to a lack of sleep after forcing themselves to stay up to watch the World Cup.  

Sleep disorders and deprivation can put one at risk for a variety of health problems, such as heart disease, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attack, diabetes, stroke, and in the worst cases, death.

In fact, UK and Italian researchers have found evidence showing that those who are regularly sleep deprived were 12 percent more likely to die over a 25-year period than those who regularly sleep for six to eight hours a night.

Read: Lack of sleep can damage the brain

On June 14, one soccer fan was proclaimed dead due to a lack of sleep and was found in front of his computer screen as it broadcasted the Chile-Australia match; another man died from a suspected heart attack after he stayed up to watch the opening World Cup matches; and just this week, a 25-year-old man from Suzhou, which is located near Shanghai, was found dead in front of his TV just a few hours after the Netherlands-Spain match was broadcasted, which finished at about 5 a.m. in China. All of these men were diehard fans of soccer, literally.

Read: Link between sleep deprivation and Alzheimer's 

Though these deaths may seem somewhat surprising, this isn’t the first time Chinese fans have died during a World Cup. In 2012, a Chinese fan was reported as deceased after suffering from a fatal stroke caused by a brain haemorrhage, which was allegedly caused by his lack of sleep.  

There is an 11-hour time difference between China and Brazil, meaning that World Cup matches were broadcasted in China starting around midnight and continued to broadcast throughout the early morning until around 8 a.m. during the opening matches.

Read: Sleep loss linked to pot use

Sleep deprivation during the World Cup has become such a problem in China that local hospitals and health care facilities are having a hard time keeping up with all of their incoming patients.

According to the Shanghai Daily, Shanghai’s hospitals have seen a noticeable spike in emergency cases since the World Cup began, with 40 percent of them being admitted due to irregular eating and sleeping patterns.

Read more:

6 Ways to get a good night's sleep
Sleep-deprived teens make poor food choices
Poor sleep affects immune system
Too little sleep bad for heart

Sources: International Business Times, Yahoo, BBC, Huffington Post and SB Nation


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Dr Alison Bentley is a general practitioner who has consulted in sleep medicine and sleep disorders, in both adults and children of all ages, for almost 30 years. She also researches and publishes on a number of sleep-related topics both in formal research journals and lay publications including as editor of Sleep Matters, an educational newsletter on sleep disorders for doctors.

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