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Diet. Diet. Diet. I could go on and on about it. Nearly half of all the self-help medical books sold in this country are about losing weight.

The obesity epidemic is going strong with no end in sight. Every day, patients ask me how to lose weight — is there a magic pill? How about CBD oil, would that help? Don’t you doctors have something that might help me lose?

Well, listen up. What if I gave you a tip to help you lose weight? It’s not a diet tip, not an exercise tip, not a pill tip. But something that’s natural, easy to do and doesn’t cost a penny. Ready? Set?

Here it is: Turn off the TV in the bedroom and you just might lose those 10 pounds you put on since last Christmas.

Here’s the study, one that points out the value sleep has in health and wellness. This research in the Journal of the American Medical Association is part of a larger study of more than 40,000 women. These women were regularly asked things like did they smoke? What about exercise? What kind of food did they eat?

There were lots of sleep questions, too, such as what time did they go to sleep and for how long? And then the most interesting question of all: Did they go to sleep with the TV on?

Now, we’ve known for years that TV and any screen can interfere with sleep. Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep has been linked to the “blue light” that comes out of our entertainment gizmos.

Shutting off the electronic stuff for a half-hour before you go to sleep has been shown to make sleep deeper, more restful and refreshing. But are there other benefits? The answer is yes.

This study found that women who had the light on while they slept — whether from the TV, computer screen or other gadget — were more likely to be overweight. The rule of thumb here was 10 pounds heavier.

Got it? Shutting off the light, sleeping in a dark environment and doing nothing else just might get you to lose half a kilo.

Why might this be happening? We know that light has direct effects on the natural melatonin your body produces. Light also disrupts normal circadian rhythms. Studies in rats have shown that when you leave the light on day and night, those animals grow fat and pudgy.

This study showed that after controlling for other factors affecting obesity — such as smoking, the job you work, whether or not you’re a shift worker, if your job is sedentary or active — those women who reported they fell asleep while the tube was on tended to add 10 pounds over the 10-year period the study took place.

Now, is this a perfect study? Of course not. It’s far from perfect, but then again our understanding of what is causing us to become fatter and fatter is far from perfect.

We blame our obesity on lots of things — fast food, snacks, large portion sizes and so on. But no one really knows what is causing more obesity and what the answer to stopping this might be.

My spin: Want to sleep better? Then unplug yourself. If you’ve tried everything else to lose weight and failed, why not try this? It just might work for you. Stay well.

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This column provides general health information. Always consult your personal health care provider about concerns. No ongoing relationship of any sort is implied or offered by Dr. Paster to people submitting questions. Any opinions expressed by Dr. Paster in his columns are personal and are not meant to represent or reflect the views of SSM Health.

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