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Americans not getting enough sleep

David Lazarus Mar 28, 2012

Jeremy Hobson: So — did you get enough sleep last night? Well, if not, you are not alone.

L.A. Times consumer columnist David Lazarus has been staying awake late a night researching this and joins us now. Good morning.

David Lazarus: Good morning.

Hobson: So it sound like we’re not getting enough sleep, David?

Lazarus: Oh big time, Jeremy. If you talk to our friends at the Centers for Disease Control, about 75 million Americans — that’s more than a quarter of the population — say they don’t get enough shuteye; about 30 million say they have chronic insomnia. Now the CDC says that can have health ramifications — it can lead to diabetes, heart disease, obesity, depression. And it can take an economic toll — basically all that lost productivity due to the lack of sleep saps the economy about $63 billion a year.

Hobson: And just to set the terms here, David, I assume that a good night’s sleep is what, eight hours?

Lazarus: The experts are mixed on it, but basically seven, eight, nine — it depends, let’s just say eight hours for the sake of it.

Hobson: So why aren’t we getting that eight hours?

Lazarus: In part because of all our neat gadgets — our iPads, our smartphones, the computer, the TV. There’s stuff to do all the time. Moreover, staring at a bright screen will cut back on melatonin secretion, which we need to kind of get into that restful state.

Hobson: You shouldn’t be looking at a computer screen or a TV screen right before you go to bed?

Lazarus: Exactly. And yet polls show that almost everyone does. Moreover, we try and keep ourselves perked up because we live in this go-go culture. In 1987, Starbucks only had about nine outlets, all in Seattle. Now it has 19,000 worldwide.

Hobson: Yeah, I think there are nine on this block here in Los Angeles, actually.

Lazarus: Exactly.

Hobson: Well David, what is the solution? How can we get enough sleep?

Lazarus: Well, some people turn to pharmaceutical solutions. In fact, the market for sleeping pills is said to be about $9 billion within the next year or so. It’s a huge amount of money. The experts say what you want to do is practice something called “good sleep hygiene.” And it’s complicated — you want to Google it and read about it, but basically, watch out for the caffeine, the alcohol, the nicotine before bed. Try to go to bed at the same time every night, try to get up at the same time every morning, try to regulate a bit. And then if you’re still having trouble, well, there’s some other tricks too that you can read up on.

Hobson: Get some sleep David!

Lazarus: I need a latte.

Hobson: L.A. Times consumer columnist David Lazarus, thanks a lot.

Lazarus: Thank you.

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