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Medicalization of sleeplessness

A child asleep at his desk is shown here.
Many people fail to get enough sleep. But is insomnia a disease that should be cured with medication? (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

How is your “sleep hygiene?” Sleep hygiene refers to the lifestyle and sleep habits that contribute to sleeplessness. Bad habits that can lead to sleeplessness include inconsistent bedtimes, lack of exercise, late-night employment, napping during the day, and sleep environments that include noise, lights, or screen time (National Institutes of Health 2011a).

According to the National Institute of Health, examining sleep hygiene is the first step in trying to solve a problem with sleeplessness.

For many people in the United States, however, making changes in sleep hygiene does not seem to be enough. According to a 2006 report from the Institute of Medicine, sleeplessness is an underrecognized public health problem affecting up to 70 million people. It is interesting to note that in the months (or years) after this report was released, advertising by the pharmaceutical companies behind Ambien, Lunesta, and Sepracor (three sleep aids) averaged $188 million weekly promoting these drugs (Gellene 2009).

According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health (2011), prescriptions for sleep medications increased dramatically from 1993 to 2007. While complaints of sleeplessness during doctor’s office visits more than doubled during this time, insomnia diagnoses increased more than sevenfold, from about 840,000 to 6.1 million. The authors of the study conclude that sleeplessness has been medicalized as insomnia, and that “insomnia may be a public health concern, but potential overtreatment with marginally effective, expensive medications with nontrivial side effects raises definite population health concerns” (Moloney, Konrad, and Zimmer 2011). Indeed, a study published in 2004 in the Archives of Internal Medicine shows that cognitive behavioral therapy, not medication, was the most effective sleep intervention (Jacobs, Pace-Schott, Stickgold, and Otto 2004).

A century ago, people who couldn’t sleep were told to count sheep. Now they pop a pill, and all those pills add up to a very lucrative market for the pharmaceutical industry. Is this industry behind the medicalization of sleeplessness, or is it just responding to a need?

Mental health and disability

The treatment received by those defined as mentally ill or disabled varies greatly from country to country. In the post-millennial United States, those of us who have never experienced such a disadvantage take for granted the rights our society guarantees for each citizen. We do not think about the relatively recent nature of the protections, unless, of course, we know someone constantly inconvenienced by the lack of accommodations or misfortune of suddenly experiencing a temporary disability.

Mental health

People with mental disorders (a condition that makes it more difficult to cope with everyday life) and people with mental illness (a severe, lasting mental disorder that requires long-term treatment) experience a wide range of effects.

Questions & Answers

Change in society during French and industrial revolution
Rubal Reply
what is the generally accepted definition of marriage
Onyeka Reply
marriage is the legal union between two people
JAYz
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Bamshak
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VICTOR
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Bamshak
I mean the current authorities who defined the Socratic method?
VICTOR
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Alabi Reply
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Hassan Reply
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Chileshe
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Sonasa
underachievement
Sarmin
living Style of the people is known as culture
Qudrat
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Qudrat Reply
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Aabid Reply
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Prince
behaviour and attitudes which are considered normal
Chileshe
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Chileshe
capitalism
Sarmin
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Keeper
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Qudrat
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ahmed
Trust me I'm not too sure about the "most disseminated religion", but for my money Christianity somehow dominates...
Athenkosi
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mohamed Reply
I need an enlightenment on the course the military and the state?
onoja Reply
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Beau Reply
it is the vave of feminism in which feminist want to equal education for male and female
Muhmmad
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Abubakar Reply
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onoja Reply
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Abubakar
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isah Reply
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James Reply
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Nazir
a collectivity of people that are United for one common purpose
Asif
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Chisom Reply
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Tinya
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onoja Reply
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Qudrat
social thought: has do with. our daily exchanges of ideas from one person to another. while, sociological thought: derives from the attributes of social thought and social ideology.
Keeper

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Source:  OpenStax, Introduction to sociology 2e. OpenStax CNX. Jan 20, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11762/1.6
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