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Sleep Gone Awry

Researchers inch closer to causes, cures for insomnia, narcolepsy

If Ben Franklin had been able to live by his own advice, he might have been even healthier, wealthier and wiser. But he was a notorious insomniac, rumored to have been such a poor sleeper that he required two beds so he could always crawl into one with cool sheets when he couldn’t sleep. Getting a good night’s sleep turned out to be more difficult than taming lightning, heating houses or designing bifocal specs.

Today millions of people afflicted by sleep disorders know how Franklin felt. Some people can’t fall asleep even when they’re exhausted. Yet other people fall asleep when they should be wide awake. Although sleep disorders take many different forms, they do have one thing in common: The more researchers learn, the more they have left to figure out. Sleep problems present a constellation of symptoms, trigger overlapping diagnoses and divulge no clear causes. 

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