Lose Gain Weight While You Sleep

There’s a new weight problem emerging in America: sleep eating. Apparently, the often-used sleeping medication Ambien (r) can cause the problem in susceptible people.

The story is chronicled in an article in The New York Timesthat tells of “emerging medical case studies that describe how the drug’s users sometimes sleepwalk into their kitchens, claw through their refrigerators like animals and consume calories ranging into the thousands,”

The patient eats food in the middle of the night and has no memory of the snacking.

But there are undeniable clues: a mouthful of peanut butter, Popsicle sticks and candy wrappers on the floor, crumbs in bed. More worrisome are the lit ovens and stoves found the next day. One woman taking the drug was discovered by her son frying bacon and eggs in her sleep, even though she was hampered by a body cast. “During the day, I couldn’t even make it to the bathroom by myself,” she said, according to the Times reporter.

Dr. Carlos Schenck, a sleep disorders specialist in Minneapolis has found 32 people with the nighttime problem, all of whom have total amnesia of the nightime meals. One patient with the problem gained 100 pounds. Often the patients know they have an eating problem, but have no idea of the link between night eating and the sleep medication.

Ambien, or zolpidem, is a $2.2 billion seller in the U.S. alone, making it the best-selling sleeping medication in America. This has been helped by $130 million advertising budget in 2005. (We’ve all seen the tv commercials.) In other countries, the drug is sold under the brand names Stilnox and Stilnocht. When I recently heard an Ambien spot, I did notice any warning about the weight gain issue.

Now if they can just synthesize a drug with the opposite effect on weight, they will have a real winner.

Read the article the Times’ site. There’s an editorial or two, and letters as well.