Pimping insomnia

Discover Magazine has an exposé of a recent surge of news stories on insomnia and sleep disorders that stretch from the dull to the frankly unbelievable.

It turns out a fair number seem to be based on press releases from PR firms, some trying to promote hotels, but others coming from the National Sleep Foundation.

The author of the piece looked at the 2005 financial figures from this organisation and discovered that over 80% of its funding came from drug companies and almost three quarters was spent on ‘public education’ – i.e. advertising the existence of sleep disorders.

Of course, sleep disorders can be distressing, disabling and potentially dangerous but research suggests that particularly for insomnia, the judicious use of drugs should be a last resort (most have the potential for addiction), as behavioural and psychological treatments are safer and more effective for most people.

Unfortunately, these approaches are often not available, meaning ‘public awareness’ increases diagnosis but leads to drug prescription, partly because people go to doctors and list what symptoms they think they have from the advertising rather than describing their experiences.

The National Sleep Foundation do a lot of excellent work but the article suggests that there seems to be an element of disease mongering and astroturfing to their promotions.

Link to article ‘Deflating the Bogus Insomnia ‚ÄúEpidemic‚Äù’

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