Melatonin and melatonin products have become popular items recommended by vloggers on Chinese social media platforms such as Sina Weibo and Little Red Book, inspiring many young Chinese to hop on the trend. Behind the increasing popularity of these sleep aids are anxiety, stress and the unhealthy lifestyles that many young people recognize as the cause of their sleepless nights.
This prescription-free drug has recently become popular in China, intriguing not only young Chinese looking for a decent night’s sleep but also those who just want to be in on the latest trend.
“I first learned about it because my favorite beauty blogger recommended it as one of her top 10 lifestyle products. I do find myself sleepless sometimes and many of my girlfriends say they have tried it, so I thought it would be best to buy some to prepare for when I have insomnia,” Cherry Chen, a melatonin user, told the Global Times.
“All the people in my circle were using it, almost everywhere. Some said it worked well, so I decided to try it,” another user Loukia (pseudonym) described her experience using melatonin while studying aboard.
Melatonin, a hormone naturally produced by the human body, has been “sugar coated” as various types of gummies, pills and powder all claiming to offer temporary help for insomnia.
Many types of imported and local melatonin products can be found on Chinese e-commerce platform Taobao. One imported US brand gummy in particular, was rated highly by Chinese consumers on a shop, with some leaving comments saying they were returned customers. The number of monthly sales of this product on the shop reached into the tens of thousands.
“The time I moved to a new place and had some issues at work, I couldn’t sleep deeply. As a sensitive adult, this was like a remedy for me to relax,” Wang Xue, a 28-year-old woman in the advertising industry, told the Global Times.
Wang is not the only one who sees melatonin products as a remedy for sleepless nights caused by social pressure and everyday anxieties. In fact, many young consumers admit that the fact the drug can help them sleep their troubles away has made them more dependent on it.
“I have problems going on with my family life – I’m separated from my wife and have to get up a 6 am to take the train to work. Having a few peaceful hours of good sleep is the last consolation for me. The drug is good, effective and not expensive,” Lu, a 34-year-old man, told the Global Times.
“You need to consult with a doctor before you take this drug. If you happen to experience dizziness, headaches or feeling depression during the day time, then those are direct warnings for you to stop,” Liu Jinming, a medical expert, told the Global Times.
A report issued by the China Sleep Research Society in 2021 shows that more than 300 million people in China have sleep disorders, but only 10 percent of people who exercise regularly suffer from insomnia.
“Taking a drug is a very passive way to handle the problem. A more regular lifestyle, diet and more sports can change the problem, in a sustainable way,” Alex Xu, a LOHAS lifestyle promoter, told the Global Times.