Don’t Lose Sleep over Insomnia ‘Epidemic’

March 02, 2008 12:03 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
The health dangers of insomnia draw increasing media attention. But behind the concern there may be a profit motive.

30-Second Summary

It seems as if commercials for prescription and over-the-counter sleep aids are everywhere.

And according to Discover magazine, the last year has seen a torrent of reports linking insomnia to such problems as obesity, road rage, acne, memory loss, marital problems and high blood pressure.

But Discover writer Bruno Maddox questions whether insomnia is really the public health hazard it is made out to be.

While investigating these news stories, Maddox finds that much of the “scientific” research on which they are based was conducted by the National Sleep Foundation—a company “with ties to drug companies looking to market their products by alerting the public to the dangers of insomnia.”

The American Academy of Family Physicians further deflates the insomnia hype, stating that it is “not really a serious problem … but it can make you feel tired, depressed and irritable.”

The National Institutes of Health has also weighed in, however, saying more research is needed into the effects of lack on public health.

The drug companies that produce sleep medications continue to market their products aggressively. According to Mother Jones magazine, this has some doctors wondering whether Madison Avenue is creating a “blockbuster” out of only “moderately useful drugs.”

Whatever the case, sleeplessness and insomnia are real health conditions that people face. But there are a number of non-pharmaceutical remedies available that, according to New York Times reporter Tara Parker-Pope, work as well as their pharmaceutical counterparts.

Plus, there may be some good news. A new study from the University of Maryland suggests Americans are actually getting more sleep on average in recent years than they have in the past.

Headline Links: Is the insomnia epidemic bogus?

Background: Ads push medications while U.S. NIH calls for more research

Reference: Better sleep tips, insomnia and sleep guides

Americans sleep habits are improving


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