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College students have long been known as some of the most sleep-deprived people in the nation, but one recent study found that sleepiness may be the least of our problems.

Sleeping too much or too little is associated with higher rates of obesity, smoking and alcohol use, according to a study released last week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The results came from one of the largest government studies of sleep habits to date. From 2004 to 2006, the CDC surveyed about 87,000 people.

The study found that about 30 percent of Americans sleep six hours or fewer per night and about 10 percent sleep nine hours or more. Both alcohol use and smoking were highest among those who slept six or fewer hours.

Those who slept more than nine and fewer than six hours were also more likely to be physically inactive during their free time and suffer from obesity.

Often people who slept too little said they were too tired to exercise. Other factors may be influential as well. Many of those who slept nine hours or more had other physical or psychological ailments that affected their physical activity.

Specialists have also found an increase in appetite with too little sleep, said Allan Pack, director of the Penn Medicine Center for Sleep and Respiratory Neurobiology.

"If you take normal people and deprive them of sleep, there are hormonal changes and increases in appetite," he said. "I don't know about college students for sure, but I imagine they are probably somewhat sleep-deprived."

Another recent study conducted at Central Michigan University found that college students who sleep too little are more likely to have difficulties with attention, depressed moods and behavioral problems.

Wharton junior Anna Tolmach, who said she often sleeps fewer than six hours per night, has seen the effects of too little sleep on her behavior.

"When I don't sleep, I don't have the energy to care about eating well," she said. "I just end up drinking a lot of coffee."

Specialists warn that these relationships are complex and the correlation between behaviors and sleep patterns don't necessarily prove that one causes the other.

"I think it's a very intriguing topic," Pack said. "I think the next step is to conduct more experiments and studies to prove causality."

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