Feeling tired and sleepy? Chances are you’re not alone. Results of a health survey released last week showed West Virginians experienced sleeplessness more than twice as much as those in any other state.

While the report allowed media across the nation to attempt clever puns based on the “Sleepless in Seattle” movie, there’s no doubt sleep deprivation can be a serious health problem with far-reaching effects.

“The importance of chronic sleep insufficiency is under-recognized as a public health problem, despite being associated with numerous physical and mental health problems, injury, loss of productivity, and mortality,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study stated.

The study showed nearly 1 in 5 residents of the Mountain State did not get a single good night’s sleep in the previous month. Nationally, the average was 1 in 10.

The bigger issue for those who live and work in West Virginia is the reason why our state residents are sleep deprived.

Experts noted possible explanations in an Associated Press report, including West Virginia’s low ranking in important health measurements such as obesity, smoking, heart disease and the proportion of adults with disabilities. Some studies have discovered sleeping problems in individuals with certain health issues, including obesity.

“There’s growing evidence sleep deprivation promotes obesity,” said Dr. Ronald Chervin, a University of Michigan sleep disorders expert, in the AP story, which also noted some experts believe those who are sleep deprived are more inclined to eat fatty foods during the day.

Not surprisingly, financial stress and odd work shifts can also contribute to sleeplessness, according to Chervin.

West Virginia has consistently had high numbers of obese and overweight residents, and the state has been working to address the problem for several years. Initiatives have included the inclusion of a dance video game as part of physical education curriculum, giving free Weight Watchers to Medicaid recipients, regulating the food in school vending machines and putting programs in place to help state employees lose weight.

Yet despite the efforts, a dramatic weight loss among residents has not been seen. Now, we learn of the problem with sleeplessness. While the recent study raised awareness, there are still many unanswered questions.

“Health-care providers should consider adding an assessment of chronic rest or sleep insufficiency to routine office visits so they can make needed interventions or referrals to sleep specialists,” the CDC study stated.

We would hope such measures would be put in place immediately. Until we learn the core reasons why residents are not sleeping enough, while also eating too much, the health of our state will suffer.

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