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Dr. Oz explores insomnia and Ambien: Improve your sleep for weight loss

Make sure to get enough sleep.
Make sure to get enough sleep.
Joanne Eglash

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) views lack of sleep as a national health hazard. An estimated 50 to 70 million adults suffer from sleep problems, and Dr. Mehmet Oz says that sleep plays a key role in health and weight loss. On his July 16 talk show, Dr. Oz discussed the dangers of Ambien sleeping pills.

To sleep, perchance to dream, perchance to take...Ambien? This common sleeping pill has dangerous side effects, warns Dr. Oz. Because women do not metabolize Ambien as quickly as men, they may experience what has been called a "Zombie" state in which they perform tasks such as driving without being fully aware of their actions.

If you want to use Ambien, take the correct dosage (five mg for women) before you go to bed. Anticipate the effects lasting seven to eight hours, and do not drink wine at the same time.

The connection between sleep and weight has been documented in several studies. For example, researchers found that people who did not get enough sleep ate 300 calories more per day. Those additional calories could result in 30 extra pounds each year.

But it's not just adults who can gain weight from lack of sleep. Babies and children who do not sleep enough are more apt to become obese before they turn 13, reported the Asbury Park Press on July 16.

In one study, researchers discovered that children who experienced inadequate sleep tended to become obese by age seven. The risks of obesity in young children include sleep apnea, diabetes and hypertension.

As for the long-term impact of insomnia and sleep problems, researchers have found a link to Alzheimer's disease, reported the Washington Post on July 14. In contrast, getting enough exercise as well as sleep reduces the risk.

Conducted by University of California at San Francisco researchers, the sleep study revealed that those with apnea or insomnia were more apt to develop dementia. "I would say that this another important study showing this link between sleep and subsequent diagnosis of dementia," said Kristine Yaffe, a psychiatry professor at UCSF.

Dr. William Lagakos notes that artificial lights and our lack of exposure to natural light impact our ability to sleep, and hence our weight. "Our indoor lifestyle deprives us of morning bright light exposure from the sun," he said in an interview.

"These daily events (exposure to bright light in the morning and absence of bright light in the evening) are critical to maintaining healthy circadian rhythms which is important not only for sleep quality, but also reducing the risk of diseases such as metabolic syndrome, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer." Even the most determined dieter can be affected by lack of sleep.

"Circadian disruptions can most certainly predispose to weight gain, and can sabotage weight loss programs. For example, poor sleep quality has been associated with obesity in numerous studies," he added.

For those who want to avoid prescription sleeping pills such as Ambien, Dr. Oz suggests trying tart cherry juice. He says it provides a natural source of melatonin. It also has been shown in some studies to reduce pain.

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