W5 Activity: Insomnia

The role of medication within American society is designed to help treat social and physical issues. It plays a large part in the daily life of Americans, as medication is available for a large range of illnesses. We have become reliant on using medicine to treat illness due in part to it having been so effective in the past and because we are constantly exposed to it, either through advertisements or meetings with physicians. Our culture has a preponderance of medicalization and biomedicalization that pushes us to pursue medication for illnesses that may not be illnesses, don’t need medication, or could help us reach an optimum state of health. Western culture is obsessed with the human body, from the appearance to the health of it, American culture is consumed by the need to perfect the human form, both mentally and physically. In the film “Pill Poppers,” they talked about how taking a pill can seem like magic, as we attempt to treat our symptoms to cure an illness or ailment or to obtain almost unobtainable levels of health.

When I watch TV, most of the commercials I see are geared toward those who experience insomnia, or trouble sleeping or staying asleep. In the commercial I chose, a woman is attempting to fall asleep, and as she tries, she gathers her ‘sleep’ cat close. The woman eventually cannot find her ‘sleep’ cat, as it is being bothered by the playful ‘wake’ dog. She eventually gets to sleep by using Belsomra, a sleeping aid. They explain the science of the medication, appealing to the Western practice of biomedicalization and our faith in medicine as a cure-all for ailments. It appeals to the consumer as a sleeping aid, and most Americans as sleep deprived, stressed individuals, seek out ways to improve sleeping habits. The commercial trusts that we are responsible and informed consumers who know what we are experience and tells us to talk to our doctor and appeals to us as decision making adults. As there are many options for insomnia medication and a large variety of ways to help insomnia without medication, the companies are relying on patients to seek out the medication from the physician.

It encourages people to seek out medication for ailments that could be solved in other ways too. Perhaps the most effective strategy in this commercial is showing the woman having a good night’s sleep, waking up the next morning and going about her day with a smile on her face. This appeals to the desire for a normal, well adjusted sleeping schedule and is an effective advertising technique. The use of animals as embodiments of sleeping and consciousness also provide a more humanizing and warm aspect to a very disruptive and irritating condition.

One thought on “W5 Activity: Insomnia

  1. Hey Linsey!

    I think your post did a very nice job on giving insightful information about insomnia. I believe there are a few factors/forces that work together to re-frame insomnia as an “illness” that requires biomedical intervention. Firstly, people today work so much to make a decent living. Spending long days at work and then coming home to get everything done that needs to be done can be a daunting task. This article I read in The Wall Street Journal says, “Shift workers are already recognized as a disadvantaged social group by doctors, because for biological as well as cultural reasons, it is easier to sleep continuously in the night than in the day” (Summers-Bremmer, 2008). This means that people who are forced to work the night shift can not function as efficiently as those who work during the day. “…the sleepless do tend to underestimate how much sleep they get. Poor sleep itself leads to faulty perceptions, to the inability to tell how far what we feel is responsible for what we think” (Summers-Bremmer, 2008). Insomnia becomes a serious issue because people are unable to make appropriate decisions because they aren’t in the right state of mind. This can become especially dangerous in the case of medical professionals like surgeons who are forced to spend hours performing surgery or maybe even a nurse who has to work the midnight shift. “It is predicted that companies will face increasing numbers of lawsuits in the future from workers whose well-being and, in some cases, lives are endangered by the sleep they miss due to hours they are required to work” (Summer-Bremmer). This article also mentions that, “… The largest nuclear accidents in recent history all occurred on the night shift, when our natural predisposition to alertness is compromised”. I believe the seriousness of insomnia has been realized through the years which has led to it being coined as an illness that requires biomedical intervention. The article clearly states that people with insomnia aren’t aware of how tired they are and carry on with their daily lives as if they were fine. As previously stated, this can become dangerous which is why biomedical intervention is necessary because people who aren’t suffering with insomnia can understand that the people with it is are in danger of harming themselves and others.

    Summers-Bremmer, Eluned. “’Insomnia: A Cultural History’” The Wall Street Journal, February 28, 2008. Accessed August 7, 2016. Http:/www.wsj.com/articles/SB120414839314697605.

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