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Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Sleepless In America

A traveler sleeps at Union Station in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012.  (AP /Jae C. Hong)

A traveler sleeps at Union Station in Los Angeles, Wednesday, Nov. 21, 2012. (AP /Jae C. Hong)

How did you sleep last night? If you’re like a lot of Americans, probably not well. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that 50 to 70 million Americans suffer from a chronic disorder of sleep and wakefulness.

And a 2011 poll found that more than half of all Americans from age 13 to 64 experience some kind of sleep problem every night.

Why are so many of us having this problem? Elizabeth Kolbert explores that question, and her own sleeplessness, in the New Yorker’s “Up All Night.”


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  • P-brennan

    I sit in front of a “day light” many mornings, meant to simulate the sun’s effect – we have receptors in the lower half of our eyes for light, which when stimulated, send a signal to the pineal gland, suppressing melatonin. One becomes fully awake, and for me there’s an added bonus of yawning and being tired by 10 pm. The light seems to reset the circadian rhythm. Also in the morning, my smart phone app (SleepCycle) wakes me, but NOT if I’m in REM sleep – I no longer wake up groggy; the app uses the phone’s accelerometer, and take advantage of the fact that we are largely immobile during REM.

    • Indiansummerranch

      I have a simple timer set up on a lamp on my bedside table so that the light comes on abou 15 min before my alarm goes off. This seems to help me wake up less groggy when my alarm goes off at 5 AM. Part of the problem is that as a society I beleive that we no longer follow the sun, we get up before dawn and go to sleep well past sunset. I love all these TV ads for breakfast items where the family is getting up in the sun and eating breakfast before school/work. Most people I know get up in the dark and get their kids on the bus at the crack of dawn.

  • Valerie

    I routinely plug in an audiobook (I’m addicted) and even if it’s the most riveting novel in the world, I start to get sleepy after about 15 minutes; unplug myself and I’m off to zzzz.  The only drawback is that sometimes I fall asleep and the audiobook keeps running until several hours later, when I wake up and turn it off. Then, in the morning, I have to rewind it back to the point I last remember before falling asleep!

  • http://twitter.com/JohnnyFroggg J Frog

    On the rare times I can’t get to sleep, I play some old “Bob Ross” dvds.  “Now lets paint some happy little trees….”    Zzzzzzzzz.  Works every time.

    • http://twitter.com/JohnnyFroggg J Frog

      And If I lived in England and needed sleep, I’d listen to the cryptic BBC shipping forecast:  “Biscay…variable 3 or 4, mainly fair moderate to poor.”  Zzzzzzzz


  • Dawn

    my husband and i have been sleeping in different rooms for years, it started because of different shifts at work and we found we rested better alone. he likes lots of covers and i dont, he likes the room cold and i like it cool. he sleeps alone and i sleep with two dogs and a cat or 6

  • Linda

    And then there is Daylight Savings Time, too. I know I never feel myself during this artificial imposed revision our body’s normal, natural circadian rhythm. And I am not alone. I have read reports on traffic accident studies that have shown that the impact isn’t a temporary adjustment period like jet lag, rather it is a sustained disruption during the ever increasing length of the DST period.

  • Krish

    For me meditating 20 minutes a day and doing breathing exercise work very well. I used to be sleep deprived 6 years back but not anymore. 20 minutes of meditation is equivalent to 4 hours of sleep.  Now a days I sleep 6-7 hours a day fresh whole day. I think more and more people should try this. 

  • Dollmine

    I was recently diagnosed with high cholesterol. When I went to pick up my medication, the pharmacist said to take it before going to bed, because it is when we are asleep that our body gets rid of the most cholesterol. 
    I had not been able to sleep more than five or six hours at night, and was often sleepy during the day and exhausted by evening.
    I made dietary changes, started exercising, and purchased a new bed. I am now getting about eight hours of sleep each night and feel at least ten years younger. Our new Sleep Number bed was way too expensive, but perhaps the money was well spent.

  • Daruth

    I have experienced sleep disorders for many years but more so since my husband died three years ago. I no longer sleep in our bed because I don’t want to sleep alone. I sleep on a couch in the dayroom with my beloved little Chihuahua curled up with me. But I still can’t ‘go to sleep.’ For the most part, I literally ‘fall asleep,’ usually while sitting at my laptop. I often leave the radio on and sometimes the television, altho it is in another room and I am not watching it.

    • Percy Paros

      I so understand, wish I didn’t.

  • Melanie Freeland

    Since having my children, I have found myself taking advantage of sleeping in two blocks. I go to bed at nine o’clock. Around 1 a.m. I find myself unable to sleep so I get up and use my time for myself. Around 3 a.m. I can finally sleep again. I then get up at 6 feeling completely fine.

  • Captain_marvel

    something new

  • nagualtonal

    Great story, but I didn’t hear anything about women and their menstrual cycles, which can often create insomnia the closer to the time of menstruation.

    Also, there was no mention of diet and the lack of Vitamin D in many people’s diets.  Vitamin D has shown a direct correlation to sleep patterns, along with magnesium, which many Western cultures are lacking in due to a high diet of calcium.

    The advise from the story never assisted with my suffering from severe insomnia.  What has worked best has been a clean low fat diet,  exercise, Vit D supplements, and a diet high in magnesium.

  • Tritonsky

    Insominia cure: Turn on a local government access channel of a town board meeting.

  • Ibsessa

    There’s no mention of sleep apnea.  I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, but I felt that it was a “rubber stamp” diagnosis as I don’t sleep on my back, and I don’t snore.  But I have a hard time getting to sleep and staying asleep.

  • Joyce Cresswell

    I listen to podcasts.  Here and Now is especially nice.  I think its Robin’s voice. ;-)  And you never have to rewind!

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