Americans Get Less Sleep Than They Think

"This really does not surprise me," said Dr. Nancy Collop, medical director of the Johns Hopkins Hospital Sleep Disorders Center, in Baltimore. In her sleep studies, she has found that patients routinely misperceive how much they sleep, often stating "I didn't sleep at all."

Less Sleep — What's the Difference?

Not getting enough sleep may be so pervasive within our society that many may not view it as a big problem.

However, missing out on sleep is more detrimental than many may realize.

"As we have progressed, people are losing sleep time," explained Silva, who is concerned that a sleep deficiency may affect daily functioning. This, she said, underscores the implications of her research for the thousands of physicians who routinely ask patients about their sleep habits.

"Physicians should take into account that people overestimate their sleep time," Silva said.

Zee agrees, and added that doctors often rely on subjective reports. "So, doctors need to be cognizant that older adults may be overestimating, and if they are actually getting less sleep, [it] may be associated with increased risk for cardiovascular, metabolic conditions that have been associated with short sleep duration."

More ZZZZs, Anyone?

Fortunately, there are steps that those wishing to maximize their sleep, or improve its quality, may take. These include refraining from heavy meals, hot baths, or vigorous exercise close to bedtime.

Caffeine lovers should avoid caffeinated beverages late in the day, and technology connoisseurs should relocate all of their noise-making gadgets — including computers and televisions — out of the bedroom.

If all else fails, and you are not rested after sleeping, Collop suggests actively trying to get more sleep.

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