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No dozing during this CNN special

Not everyone is fortunate enough to get paid to "Sleep" on the job.

But there I was at about 7 a.m. one day last week, watching the DVD of the Dr. Sanjay Gupta special about sleep on CNN in the hope that I would learn a thing or two about why I'm so lousy at it that I keep getting up at 6 a.m. on weekends.

I usually preview upcoming shows early in the morning because that's when I'm most alert. To be honest, I might fall asleep for five or 10 minutes during afternoon previews, especially if I'm watching a lame new sitcom like WB's "Modern Men" and NBC's upcoming "Teachers."

That's one reason I'm so in love with the DVD and DVR. You can always go back five or 10 minutes to re-watch the scenes you've missed when you dozed off. Then you remember why you dozed off.

As Gupta's primetime special (10 p.m. Sunday) demonstrates, it is much safer to doze off watching TV on your couch than in your car or in an airplane cockpit. Far too many accidents occur because of driver or pilot fatigue. The statistics are frightening.

If you're driving heavy machinery and feel fatigued, Gupta says experts advise you to pull over, drink some caffeine, take a brief nap and wait a little bit before you go back on the road.

That's pretty much my standard procedure when I nod off for five minutes while catching up on shows I've put on my DVR. I can't tell you how many times I've fallen asleep during the final minutes of "Boston Legal," right around the time writer-producer David E. Kelley has Alan Shore (James Spader) deliver one of his passionate speeches bashing some Bush administration policy.

Thanks to the DVR, I know that Kelley has been harder on Bush's Iraq policy and questionable domestic surveillance policies than Sen. Russ Feingold and most Democrats.

Apparently, almost all of us need an afternoon power nap. Gupta reports that 70 million of us have trouble sleeping and many are living on an average of 6 1/2 hours of sleep when we need eight hours. "As a society we are chronically sleep-deprived," says Gupta.

"Sleep" follows a sleep-deprived fortysomething, working mother of two who battles insomnia because so many things are on her mind. She takes some simple expert advice and writes down her next day's plans, avoids caffeine and does relaxing exercises before bed. And it works.

Besides giving such elementary advice, "Sleep" also illustrates some unusual violent sleeping problems, interviews a performance artist who creatively uses her dreams, and interviews a dream analyst. Oh, and Olympian short track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno shows up because, well, he's Olympian Apolo Anton Ohno.

Those segments didn't put me to sleep, but they seemed like a big waste of time because their problems were so unusual. The working mother's problems were much easier to embrace because they seemed, well, similar to mine. Except for all the child care and housework.

Gupta, who enlivens things by getting involved in some high-tech sleep experiments, would have been better off focusing on the normal rather than the unusual.

His prime-time special did teach me a thing or two about sleeping and TV. But I disagree with one piece of advice. He says experts believe that having a TV in the bedroom is a very bad idea and can ruin a good night's sleep.

I've actually found that, on many nights, falling asleep while watching late-night TV can be almost as effective and long lasting as taking Ambien.

Sleep

10 p.m. Sunday, CNN

Rating: 3 stars (out of 4)

***

*My sleep habits are put to the test during CBS' coverage of the NCAA men's basketball tournament on WIVB-TV, which heads into the regional semifinals tonight and Friday and often doesn't end until well past midnight. Amazingly, local viewership can increase around midnight when you might think people would head to bed. Of course, Nielsen doesn't record how many people are sleeping with their televisions on.

The Thursday tournament coverage gives CBS' broadcast rivals a chance to face weaker competition tonight than "Survivor," "CSI" and "Without a Trace." And last Thursday, ABC and Channel 7 took advantage of it by premiering "American Inventor," the new reality series from Simon Cowell and the producers of "American Idol." Despite -- or because of -- its humiliating tone, "American Inventor" was a ratings hit.

*According to sources, WB 49 news reporter Steve Barber will head over to 7 News after WNYO-TV ends its 10 p.m. newscast on March 31.

e-mail: apergament@buffnews.com

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