I have been thinking about sleep, how everywhere there are messages telling us we need to get a full 8 hours, and how that is sounding more and more like disease mongering. Because, in the end, no matter how dark our room is or how active we are during the day, 8 hours of sleep can seem utterly elusive. We must be diseased. What to do? A pill!
And I cannot believe this. I just discovered Dr. McDougall saying the same thing … 17 years ago! I hope he doesn’t mind me posting it in its entirety. There’s too much good stuff to leave anything out. And I don’t make a cent from my blog:
Pharmaceutical Companies Promote Sleeping Sickness, Dr. John McDougall, Newsletter Archive Vol. 4, No. 10, October 2005
Lately, you have been hearing much about the importance of sleep—like, “Any time you’re depriving yourself of sleep you’re putting yourself in an unhealthy state,” and “Sufficient sleep is as important as a healthy breakfast for best school performance.” Why are millions of media dollars being spent to teach you to sleep more? Is this really so that you and your family can be healthier? Or more likely, is there some money to be made? What industry could profit by spreading the message that one-half of all Americans, and two-thirds of the elderly, suffer from sleeping problems? If you guessed the sleeping pill industry, you are right. That is the only industry which could benefit financially.
Sleep Mongering Activities:
Direct to Consumer Advertising
TV, Radio, Print, Internet, etc.
Medical Journal Advertisements
Medical Research Studies
Buying Medical Experts
Direct to Physician Sales
Coupons and Free Samples
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine
The National Sleep Foundation
The National Health Council
Get Some Sleep.com web site
Insomnia Awareness Day
The colossal push for the benefits of sleep is another well-orchestrated example of disease mongering (peddling)—“educating” the members of the public that they are ill and in need of a “pill-fix.” Everywhere you look—billboards, magazines, newspapers, Internet and TV—you see advertisements for the two newest and most profitable sleeping pills, Ambien and Lunesta, costing about $3.50 a pill.
Selling of these drugs to the public goes well beyond blatant advertisements into areas of deceptive marketing. The pharmaceutical companies create and fund organizations to provide legitimacy for their products and promote sales, like the National Sleep Foundation.1 This front for industry claims to be an independent nonprofit organization and a source of valuable information on sleep, sleep disorders, and the consequences of sleep deprivation. On the surface it appears to be consumer-oriented, but in reality the National Sleep Foundation acts to convince the average consumer that he is unhealthy and in need of medication.
On the National Sleep Foundation web site they will tell you: “If you haven’t had a good night’s sleep, you’re likely to pay for it. The price may be high: Reduced energy, greater difficulty concentrating, diminished mood, and greater risk for accidents, including fall-asleep crashes. Work performance and relationships can suffer too. And pain may be intensified by the physical and mental consequences of lack of sleep.”2 This foundation has even designated Wednesday, March 30 as “Insomnia Awareness Day”—do you get a paid holiday? They never mention sleeping pills, but after only a few minutes on their site you will be convinced you have a problem in need of a remedy.
Primary Sponsors of the National Sleep Foundation (Sleeping pill product):3
Takeda Pharmaceuticals North America, Inc. (Rozerem)
Neurocrine Biosciences Inc. (Indiplon)
King Pharmaceuticals (Sonata)
Sanofi Aventis (Ambien)
Pfizer U.S. Pharmaceuticals (Unisom, Pregabalin)
Sepracor Inc (Lunesta).
Your Doctor Is in Bed with the Sleeping Pill Businesses
One of the best ways to sell drugs is to establish strong ties with those who directly prescribe to the customer—the medical doctors. Pharmaceutical companies fund research studies and opinion papers in scientific journals that highlight the “epidemic” of sleep disorders and the benefits of sleeping pills. Nothing influences a doctor more than published scientific research. Nothing, that is except for the provocatively dressed sales reps, providing everything from donuts to scratch pads for the doctor’s office staff. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine is the doctor’s professional organization dedicated to sleep. This credentialing body has identified 80 different sleep disorders. It receives a variety of funds from pharmaceutical companies selling sleeping pills.
Sleep Mongering Hurts the People
When people hear that they are getting less sleep than experts recommend, they naturally worry that they are mentally, emotionally, and/or physically ill—this causes anxiety and distress. The National Sleep Foundation recommends between 9 and 11 hours for children, 9.5 hours for teens and 7-9 hours/night sleep for the average adult. These recommendations are likely to cause you to try to sleep more. So, what if you don’t need that much sleep? The effects of sleep are accumulative— after one or two nights of oversleeping you become over-rested and have trouble falling and staying asleep the third night—you now have a disease, called insomnia. Those who continue to believe the pharmaceutical industry’s advertisements soon discover the only way they are able to achieve the 8 to 9 hours of recommended sleep is to take medication. Before they can say, “I need a good night’s sleep,” they are hooked on sleeping pills—with all the side effects, including memory loss and day-time drowsiness.
People who sleep between 6 and 7 hours live the longest and more than 7 hours is associated with progressively increasing risk of death, especially from heart disease.4,5 Men who sleep more than 8 hours a night have been found to have twice the risk of overall death and about three times the risk of dying of heart disease.6 To compound matters, sleeping too much causes serious psychological depression for many people—a condition requiring more help from the pharmaceutical companies (antidepressants).7 Obviously, sleep mongering is good business.
Sleeping Naturally without Being Drugged
There is a simple, cost-free, safe solution which begins with realizing you are not “sick,” but that you simply need much less sleep than recommended by the drug companies. The average healthy adult really needs between 5 ½ and 7 ½ hours of sleep nightly.
To solve your “insomnia,” the solution is as close as your alarm clock, using the time-honored therapy of “sleep restriction.”8,9 Sleep only enough to relieve fatigue and no more. If you are presently troubled or dependent on sleeping medications, then cut way back on the amount of time you allow yourself to be in bed—maybe 5 hours a night would be a good starting time. Beginning with this amount and adding more (or rarely less) you will soon discover the number of hours of sleep that relieve fatigue but still leave you tired enough to easily fall asleep and stay asleep the next night.
In addition to reducing the time spent in bed, you need to have consistency with your sleeping hours—the time you go to bed and the time you arise. Restriction of stimulating beverages, like coffee and tea, will be very important. Your efforts will be well-worth your troubles because taking this one-third of your life back from the drug industry will brighten your whole day.
4) Patel SR, Ayas NT, Malhotra MR, White DP, Schernhammer ES, Speizer FE, Stampfer MJ, Hu FB. A prospective study of sleep duration and mortality risk in women. Sleep. 2004 May 1;27(3):440-4.
5) Kripke DF, Garfinkel L, Wingard DL, Klauber MR, Marler MR. Mortality associated with sleep duration and insomnia. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2002 Feb;59(2):131-6.
6) Burazeri G, Gofin J, Kark JD. Over 8 hours of sleep–marker of increased mortality in Mediterranean population: follow-up population study. Coat Med J. 2003 Apr;44(2):193-8.
7) Giedke H, Klingberg S, Schwarzler F, Schweinsberg M. Direct comparison of total sleep deprivation and late partial sleep deprivation in the treatment of major depression. J Affect Disord. 2003 Sep;76(1-3):85-93.
8) Spielman AJ, Saskin P, Thorpy MJ.. Treatment of chronic insomnia by restriction of time in bed. Sleep. 1987 Feb;10(1):45-56.
9) Morin CM, Kowatch RA, O’Shanick. Sleep restriction for the inpatient treatment of insomnia. Sleep. 1990 Apr;13(2):183-6.
His message has been effectively obliterated by entities that seek to profit from our “sleeplessness.”
I fully expect people to disagree with this. Vehemently. But I happen to think he’s right. And I admire him for standing his ground. People place more trust in the pharmaceutical industry than is warranted. Drug companies are, ever, diseased by their conflicts of interest.