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Sleeplessness Boosts Ulcer Risk

'Little brain' in gut responds to stress

If stress turns your stomach into knots or gives you ulcers, one of the worst things you can do is skimp on sleep.

British researchers recently found a protein used by the body to repair tissue in the stomach and the small intestine. A wire service story from the New Zealand Herald reports that the chemical drops to its lowest level in midafternoon but is highest at night during sleep.

So, why does sleep affect your gut instead of just your brain?

Your gastrointestinal tract turns out to have its own "little brain." Indeed, the gut is wired to respond to stress signals from the brain. That's also the reason that people get "butterflies" in their stomach when taking a big test or giving a speech, and why stress makes some people nauseated or causes diarrhea. A Chicago Tribune feature reprinted in the Boulder, Colo., Daily Camera explains how it works.

If you need more sleep to put your mind -- and your gut -- at rest, a previous HealthScout story suggests that changing sleep habits works best in the long-term.

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