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Getting enough sleep? Not in West Virginia

Associated Press / October 30, 2009

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ATLANTA - Sleepless in Seattle? Hardly. West Virginia is where people are really staying awake, according to the first government study to monitor state-by-state differences in sleeplessness.

West Virginians’ lack of sleep was about double the national rate, perhaps a side effect of health problems, like obesity, specialists said.

Nearly 1 in 5 West Virginians said they didn’t get a single good night’s sleep in the previous month. The national average was about 1 in 10, according to the federal health survey conducted last year.

Tennessee, Kentucky, and Oklahoma also were above average in their reported lack of sleep. In contrast, North Dakota had fewer problems sleeping, with only 1 in 13 reporting that degree of sleeplessness.

Health officials do not know the exact reasons for the differences.

“We didn’t ask ‘Why didn’t you get enough rest or sleep?’ ’’ said Lela McKnight-Eily, an epidemiologist at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention who led the study.

But specialists noted several possible explanations. West Virginia ranks at or near the bottom of the nation in a variety of health measures, including obesity, smoking, heart disease, and the proportion of adults with disabilities. Studies have found sleeping problems in people with certain health problems, including obesity.

“You would expect to see poorer sleep within a chronically diseased population,’’ said Darrel Drobnich of the National Sleep Foundation, a nonprofit advocacy and research organization.

Some specialists believe sleep-deprived people are more inclined to eat more fatty foods during the day.

“There’s growing evidence sleep deprivation promotes obesity,’’ said Dr. Ronald Chervin, a University of Michigan sleep disorders expert specialist.

Financial stress and odd-hour work shifts can play roles in sleeplessness, too, Chervin said.

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