Get More, Better Sleep: Put These 5 Sleep-Stealing Behaviors to Rest

According to the CDC, 35 percent of the population gets less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep, putting everyone at risk for nightmares.

March 7, 2011

About 40% of U.S. adults say they've fallen asleep accidentally in the daytime.

According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study exposes nightmarish sleep statistics nationwide. More than 35 percent of adults surveyed for the CDC study admitted to getting less than seven hours of sleep at night. It isn't enough, and that increases the risk of all sorts of problems, including high blood pressure and car accidents. (Drowsy driving accounts for roughly 1,550 fatalities and 40,000 nonfatal injuries annually in the United States, making it one of the most lethal consequences of not getting enough shut-eye.)


Nearly 38 percent of adults also admitted accidentally falling asleep during the day in the last month, while about 5 percent said they nodded off or fell asleep while driving(!). Clearly, sleep-starved people are not only a danger to themselves, but to everyone around them, as well.

Here's how to get better sleep and avoid dangerously drowsy situations:

• Hone in on hitting 7 to 9. If you're having trouble sleep seven to nine hours through the night, consider making some simple changes to help lull your body into sleep mode.

Sleep better: After the sun sets, really focus on limiting your exposure to artificial light. All of those fake bright lights after dark are snuffing sleep-inducing melatonin production, which also has been linked to high blood pressure and diabetes. Cut out screen time (TV, computer, cellphone) an hour or two before bed, and keep lights dim to coax your body off to lullaby land.

• Deter drowsy driving. Researchers have shown that drowsy drivers are nearly as hazardous as people driving under the influence. Unfortunately, about 17 percent of fatal car accidents involve sleepy driver.

Sleep better: Certainly, making it a point to nab seven to nine hours of sleep a night is a great way to drive under safer conditions. The problem is, some people don't realize they're driving drowsy. If you're yawning, experiencing heavy eyelids, having trouble thinking straight, missing exits, or drifting out of your lane, it's time to park it. By the way, it's a myth that opening the windows or turning up the radio will keep you alert enough to drive safely. If you're on the road and experience extreme drowsiness, find a safe parking lot area to park, and set your cellphone alarm so you can get a 20-minute power nap to fuel you for more driving.

• Sideline sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition that causes heavy snoring and interrupted breathing during the sleep cycle. A 2008 Johns Hopkins University study confirmed that severe forms of sleep apena can raise the risk of stroke or heart attack by more than 45 percent.

Sleep better: See your doctor to talk about how to best manage your sleep apnea. Most doctors agree that one of the most effective ways to stop sleep apnea is to lose weight. If you're overweight, losing 10 percent of your body can greatly keep sleep apnea in check and help you get better sleep. (Read The Weight Loss Secret You Won’t See Advertised on TV to start shedding excess pounds.)

• Power down a midafternoon brain drain. Whether you get enough sleep at night or not, this mid-day fix is in your favor. Naptime isn't just for babies anymore. In fact, it's a secret tool of many successful people. A 2009 survey on the matter found that a third of frequent nappers nabbed more than $100K a year. Beyond that, it's to your employer's advantage to give you a mini shut-eye session on the clock. It improves thinking skills and memory, and even slashes your risk of having a fatal heart attack by nearly 40 percent, according to a Greek study.

Sleep better: This guide to napping issues tips on how to induce a beneficial mid-day mental charge: Nap before 4 p.m. or it could tinker with your body's circadian rhythms, and shoot for a 10-minute nap. If you nap for more than 30 minutes, you could experience grogginess afterward.

• Roll over sleep-stealing snoring. Snoring ranks as a major deep sleeper stealer for not just the snorer, but also a partner in the room. A British survey discovered that being married to a snoring spouse results in about four years' worth of lost sleep! While heavy snorers need to be checked out by a doctor for possible sleep apnea, lighter snorers could be remedied with simple sleep position adjustments, mainly, staying off of their backs.

Sleep better: If you generally snore when on your back, cut out a shirt pocket from an old shirt and sew it on the back of your pjs shirt (leaving the top open). Then, before bed, pop a tennis ball in the pocket. If you roll onto your back during the night, the ball will force you to roll to your side without waking you up. You can also try propping your head up with an extra pillow to reduce snoring. It opens your airway more. (We recommend natural fiber pillows, such as ones made out of real rubber, organic cotton, or wool.)