I love sand for the way it looks, and to me, gravel has to be disturbed with a gravel vac, or you get piles of gunk collecting in it, so it is the same difference. You just don't use your gravel vac in quite the same way.
I take my hand (or just the gravel vac tube) and wave it around over the surface of the water, and the mulm swirls around so I can catch it. About once a month I dig around in the sand, like Canukfan mentioned, to keep it aerated. Plants will do this for you, as will Malaysian Trumpet Snails, which reside in the sand and come out at night.
You need to protect your filter from loose sand particles, as it will damage it, but over time the sand does not tend to circulate in the water at all. I use an AC
mini filter sponge over my intake instead of the strainer for the first few months in a sand tank.