Difficulty Sleeping

American Culture puts extreme emphasis on health and wellbeing. In our society, medications seem to be the fastest, cheapest, and easiest way to stay healthy. People who are not perfectly healthy are often stigmatized against. For example, from the documentary “Pill Poppers,” people who had clinical depression often felt that there was nothing they could do to be accepted. However, after selective seratonin re-uptake inhibitors were developed, depression was suddenly treatable. These SSRI’s had many fewer side-effects than traditional anti-depressants, and suddenly, having depression became much more socially acceptable to have. Another reason for the widespread use of medications in our society is that illness reduces how productive a person can be. If you’re too sick, you cannot work, and if you can’t work, you can’t make money or be successful.

The commercial I chose to advertise was for a prescription sleep aid called Lunesta. In this commercial, a man is presented tossing and turning in bed, unable to fall asleep because he has too many worries on his mind, such as worry about missing an appointment, and inability to remember if he sent the car payment. A woman’s voice is played which presents all the pertinent medical information about the drug.  This commercial definitely plays on the added benefits of Lunesta. For example, it is stated that the drug works quickly so it should be taken right before bed. Also, it is mentioned that Lunesta is the only sleep aid recommended for extended use. However, the woman’s voice also states that you should consult your physician if you intend to use the drug for a long period of time. I think the most prominent display of advertisement in the commercial is the final line, which states that if you’re ready to get a full night’s sleep, just climb in bed and leave the rest to Lunesta. This shows how inability to sleep is being medicalized. In reality however, there a plenty of ways to prepare yourself to fall asleep that do not require the use of medications.

Click for Lunesta Video

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Rebecca Chockley says:

    With our new standards for the number of hours worked per week and the increased level of after school activities, many adults are overworked and stressed out. Historically, we have never faced so many obstacles to the separation of work and home life. The Whitehall study showed us the effects of stress on our bodies. This new type of lifestyle can lead to difficulty falling or staying asleep. American culture also has many habits in the home that hinder restful sleep. Many of us have TVs in our bedrooms. We also tend to drink caffeine near bedtime. We take our work home with us and worry about bills and appointments instead of taking time in the evening to relax and prepare for bed. Getting the correct amount of sleep regularly, can improve brain function and increase information retention. This is also why cramming for an exam is not as beneficial as paced studying combined with a regular sleep schedule. Our economic climate tells us that if we are not stressed out about work then we are not working hard enough or are not ambitious enough. Restful sleep is a luxury for the lazy and unmotivated segment of society and they are not the top earners. The commercial implies that if you are successful then you should need this medication. Sleeping medication is marketed as a magic off switch for our brains. It allows us to overwork ourselves and then just hit the sleep button for 8 hours and then start the cycle again the next day.
    The Lancet, Volume 337, Issue 8754, Pages 1387 – 1393, 8 June 1991 doi:10.1016/0140-6736(91)93068-K

  2. Amber Hauck says:

    Difficulty Sleeping has become an “illness” in our medicalized culture for many different reasons. Difficulty Sleeping is now known as a disease rather than a symptom as it may have previously been known as. They’ve even gone as far as to give this illness a name, insomnia. I would actually consider difficulty sleeping a psychiatric disease, noting that most people who suffer from insomnia describe their bodies being exhausted, but they just can’t turn their minds off.
    There is one specific cultural aspect that I actually spoke about in my own blog about obesity that is applicable here too. Our culture wants everything done fast. Fast food, fast money, fast weight loss, fast everything. So, without a doubt, we want to be able to fall asleep fast as well. While this is not the case for all insomniacs, some probably just aren’t giving themselves enough time to actually get adequate sleep. This is because of our daily lives becoming busier and busier, with working long hours and familial care as well as social obligations, Americans tend to not leave themselves enough hours at night to fall asleep. Many sleep medications touch on this subject in their advertisements, saying they’ll help you fall asleep FAST.

    • Amber Hauck says:

      Isn’t it crazy how you go on one note and lose the other? What I wanted to add here is the reason I stated that I believe insomnia is a psychiatric disease. The Conrad article states that “Psychiatric diagnoses are historically and culturally situated.” (Conrad) This is important to understand because the terms for diagnosis fade in and out through history depending on the cultural ideologies at the time. So, things embedded in our current culture cause us to diagnose insomnia when the symptoms may have not been cause for diagnosis in the past. This is where the cultural ideology of “get things done fast” is now embedded in today’s medicine.

      Work Cited:
      Conrad, Peter and Deborah Potter. “From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations on the Expansion of Medical Categories.” Social Problems, Vol. 47, No. 4. November, 2000. p 559-582

  3. Francesca says:


    I found your media analysis for the Lunesta video really interesting, the next time I see the commercial I’ll defiantly look at it differently. I find it extremely interesting that sleeping disorders have now become illnesses. It is clear that they have become illness due to several cultural forces. In the article posted for this week, From Hyperactive Children to ADHD Adults: Observations on the Expansion of Medical Categories, Conrad and Potter state “Psychiatric and, medical diagnoses are the product of socio-historical circumstances and the claims-making of particular interest groups.” Conrad and Potter also state that they rarely come from new scientific discoveries but more often from “health-related organization, pharmaceutical companies… clinicians.” In addition, our culture has the ideology that we need to sleep 8 hours a night to be considered healthy and to maintain our health. Many people in the United States do not sleep 8 hours a night due to anxiety, depression, insomnia, etc. Because people in society do not meet this ideology, it has become an illness. Historically, certain illnesses are more prevalent then others and tend to decline depending on this ideology. So possibly in 20 years, sleeping disorders could be less prevalent.

    Francesca Bignasci

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