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Information from the large-scale National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) of the 1980s found a strong link between the amount of sleep a person gets and that person's risk of becoming obese. Among those people who got less than 4 hours of sleep each night, 73% were more likely to become obese than those people who got the recommended 7 to 9 hours of rest. Those people who got 5 hours of sleep had a 50% greater risk of obesity, while those who got 6 hours of sleep had a 23% greater risk. Specialists suggest that the difference in obesity risks exists because people eat when they are awake and the effect of chronic sleep loss may trigger a person's foodseeking behavior. Dr. Steven Heymsfield of Columbia University added, "There's growing scientific evidence that there's a link between sleep and the various neural pathways that regulate food intake."Sleep deprivation does, in fact, lower the blood protein leptin, which is responsible for suppressing appetite, while at the same time raising the level of ghrelin, the substance that makes people want to eat.
Ms. Farley is a freelance medical writer based in Wakefield, RI.