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Sleep: A Necessity, Not a Luxury
Date:6/8/2008

ation involve a person's health. Doctors have linked lack of sleep to weight gain, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems, depression and substance abuse.

"Hormones that process appetite begin to get disorganized," said Drake, who's also an assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the Wayne State University School of Medicine. There's a decrease in the amount of leptin, an appetite-suppressing hormone, when a person gets too little sleep. At the same time, ghrelin -- a hormone that stimulates appetite -- increases with a lack of sleep.

Too little sleep also interferes with the body's ability to regulate glucose and can cause inflammation leading to heart problems and a rise in blood pressure. "There's a stress response to being in a sleep loss," Belenky said.

The types of people not getting enough sleep also break down into two groups. First, there are those who make the conscious choice to go without enough sleep.

"It's sort of part of the culture," Belenky said. "People pride themselves on getting little sleep. You'll hear people bragging, 'I only need six hours a night.' So there's a macho element here."

On the other hand, there are people who are suffering from sleep disorders. These disorders include:

  • Insomnia, an inability to go to sleep or stay asleep.
  • Sleep apnea, or breathing interruptions during sleep that cause people to wake up repeatedly.
  • Restless legs syndrome, a tingling or prickly sensation in the legs that causes a person to need to move them, interrupting sleep.

Someone suffering from any of these problems should visit their doctor or see a sleep specialist, Belenky said.

Sleep apnea, the most prevalent sleep disorder, can have particularly serious long-term effects if left untreated. "You're waking up out of sleep to breathe. You can't sleep and breathe at the same time," Drake said. "It's a risk
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