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Tips for improving nightly sleep habits

February 9, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
Millions of Americans are doing little things that sabotage their sleep and they just don't know it. Getting some good shuteye could be as simple as changing a few little habits.

Health experts believe we are a nation of insomniacs. Numerous studies show driving on little sleep is as dangerous as driving drunk.

Doctors say many sleep problems may be because by a few bad habits that can be fixed.

For most of us, sleeping is simple. but if it's tough for you, you're not alone out there.

Studies show 75 percent of us have sleep problems more than once a week. Pauley, 47, knows all about that. He's a sleep disorder patient.

"When you can define your week as 'I had a good week because you slept through one night out of seven,' that was a little disturbing," said Pauley.

Sleep specialist Dr. Bruce Thomas says adults need seven to nine hours of rest each night. Routinely miss that mark, and you can boost chances for obesity, substance abuse and more.

"You'll have an increased risk for type-2 diabetes, increased risk of depression," said Thomas.

First, cut out the booze before bed. While it's a sedative, alcohol prevents deep sleep and encourages light sleep.

Second, watch the clock. If you're not snoozing 15 minutes after hitting the sack, get back up. Stressing over sleep can prevent it.

"It's like your head's packed with cotton and everything is muted," said Pauley.

If you're like Pauley and want to try sleep aids, use them only as a last resort.

"The longer you take them, the more dependence you develop on them, the more side effects you can have, and interactions with other drugs," said Dr. Thomas.

Pauley boosted his vitamins and balanced his hormones, which are other natural options.

"The energy level was up and I think the first person to pick up on a more bright disposition was my wife," said Pauley.

More sleep, happy wife, happy life: a pretty good combination.

And if you're a woman who tends to use the snooze button more than your mate? There's a reason: A new English study says women need more sleep than men, about 20 more minutes each day.