This one, right here: Study of the Day: Even Low Doses of Sleeping Pills Triple Death Risk
I passed lightly over it when I saw it on Instapundit, thinking, as Glenn did, that perhaps it was the sleep problem that was causing the real issue. Sleep deficits have a number of well-known and seriously detrimental effects. And I didn’t think a whole lot of it.
Until I did.
Look, this is the thing: insomnia can be deadly. Forget the car crashes and the mistakes exhausted people make on the job and the way that a short temper can ruin a home. Forget the heart attacks and the blood pressure issues and the caffeine headaches and all the rest of it. Nobody believes it’s a serious problem, anyway. Not sleeping has become a fucking status symbol, and despite some advances in understanding the consequences, it’s not all that likely to stop being one any time soon.
The problem isn’t sleeping pills. It’s the complete obliteration of anything resembling a sane lifestyle. We’ve got food that’s not food, night that’s not night…hell, I know better and after a hearty supper of hot dogs and oreos, my kids are now watching netflix. At 8 we’ll send them to their room to bounce off the ceiling until they drop of exhaustion.
We are very, very modern.
Anyway, we didn’t have netflix when I was a kid, or computers, or any of this shit that keeps us up all night. I had books, but they lack that special flashing-light-in-your-face component that helps keep you awake. And I always, always had trouble sleeping. Always. Ask my mother.
I think the thing that kills me about this article is the *moralizing* that I suspect will follow. Sleeping and waking on command have somehow become so tied up with this culture that not to be able to do it is seen as somehow inferior, somehow wrong. People with sleep problems get told that they need to practice better “sleep hygiene,” as if there were something unclean about tossing and turning. Sleeping pills are already viewed as dangerous and slightly unsavory. This correlation will not help, whether it is borne out in further investigation or not.
I don’t tell many people that I take a sleeping pill every. single. night. It’s none of their business anyway, but I can stand not to be looked at like I’d just admitted to sodomizing a Smurf.
This is not much of an exaggeration.
I take a sleeping pill every night because it’s saving my damned life, and I don’t expect a soul to understand that (with the exceptions, of course, of the folks treating me–and my husband, who likes me much better when I sleep). And they had to talk me into taking it every night, because I kept seeing it as a personal failure to have trouble sleeping. Even though I have bipolar disorder. Even though said disorder seriously fucks with your body clock. Even though I happily (well, maybe happily is pushing it, but still) take other drugs that goof around with my personal chemistry in order to allow me to be myself on a more regular basis, and the girl having a screaming breakdown on a decidedly *less* regular basis, or better yet, not at all.
In any case, the human tendency is to generalize the hell out of stories like this, and ignore the whole correlation/causation question, and to celebrate how they’ll live forever now because they’re not one of those people who are dumb enough to abuse a sleeping pill by actually, you know, taking one. First an Ambien, next thing you know you’ve blown up the neighborhood trying to make Sudafed out of your meth (pdf, ht: Radley Balko).