Put These 5 Sleep-Stealing Behaviors to Rest

A new CDC report finds that 35 percent of the population gets less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep, putting everyone at risk for nightmares.

By Leah Zerbe, Rodale.com

A new 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.)

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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.

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Power down a mid-afternoon 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.)

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Terry V.
Terry V.2 years ago


Elena T.
Elena Poensgen2 years ago

Thank you :)

J.L. A.
JL A.3 years ago

good to know

Michele Wilkinson

Thank you

Ida J.
Ida J.4 years ago


Guy Kimble
Guy Kimble4 years ago

This could be me!

Samantha Hodder
Sam Hodder4 years ago


Brenda Gilbert
Brenda Gilbert4 years ago

Eating your last meal of the day at least 3 hours - preferably rather more - before going to bed can help. too. Doing some gentle breathing exercises in bed before sleep helps. Doing enough physical exercise during the day so that your body is actually tired is also important. A lazy day may be wonderful now and again as a rest but we need to tire ourselves in order to sleep well!!

Kira H.
Kira H.4 years ago

It is important to ensure adequate break time before bed - no matter what you’ve been doing prior to going to bed, you need to give your mind and body time to relax before laying down for sleep. Whether you’ve been working, studying or watching T.V, quit what you’re doing at least an hour before bedtime. A poll for the National Sleep Association found that 87% of respondents watched T.V within an hour of going to bed – at least a couple times a week. Violent shows, news reports and vivid stories stay in our heads long after we’ve watched them. Watching T.V or doing anything else that stimulates the brain before bed hinders your quality of sleep.
For some tips on what is OK before bed you can download the FREE ebook, Get To Sleep Now! http://www.instantlyfallasleep.com Its got loads of information on what to avoid and what will help. For example, instead of watching TV before bed and stimulating your brain, call your mom or talk to your children/partner. Chatting is an incredibly beneficial way to slow down your brain, relax, unwind, get your thoughts out and and fall asleep.

Tana Martin
Tana D.4 years ago

Aimee Polekoff- My school district tried that suggestion (high school starting later) during my sophmore year of high school. It was a disaster. Kids didn't perform better, it completely screwed up the bus schedule- so much so that those of use coming from farther away from the school (it had a Center for the Arts program so we had kids from a few different towns but generally within 45 mins travel) missed 1st period every day for almost the entire semester until they were able to hire more drivers specifically for the high schools. Not to mention those who did after school activities or worked had far less time to do those things and still get home in time to finish homework. For some it actually increased how late we stayed up because we didn't get out until much later in the afternoon.

Back to the article, some of these are pretty useful tips. My fiance does not get enough sleep, but having to wake up at 4am is the main reason why. Not to mention I can't get him to turn off the tv or video games until 9pm and he generally doesn't fall asleep until about 10 unless he's extremely tired, makes it nearly impossible for him to get him at least 7 hrs.