Heavy Sleep

By Health Day

America's obesity epidemic isn't just due to how much time people spend eating. The time we spend avoiding sleep may also play a role!

While waistlines across the country are expanding, the amount of shut-eye most Americans get is shrinking. Some estimates suggest that more than 50 million American adults sleep less than 6 hours a night.

According to a new paper in the American Journal of Human Biology, sleep deprivation could be linked to obesity, heart disease, and other chronic health problems.

When you spend more time awake, you simply have more hours in the day for eating. But people who don't get enough sleep may also make less of the hormone leptin, which helps us feel full, and more of the hormone ghrelin, which increases our appetite.

Sleep-deprived people may also have other hormonal changes that set the stage for diabetes, which then raises the risk of heart disease.

In our fast-paced, 24-hour society, we often ignore our bodies' need for rest. But experts are learning that sleep plays a vital role in our health just like a good diet and regular exercise.

If you're often tired during the day, setting aside more time at night for sleep can help you feel mentally sharp and, perhaps, more physically fit.

I'm Dr. Cindy Haines of HealthDay TV, with the news that doctors are reading; health news that matters to you.

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