Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Thinking With My Fingers (Though They Never Fing)

I am not a doctor although I do play one sometimes towards closing time at bars. I do work for a sleep lab though and this gives me a little more knowledge in the field of sleep than your average layman. I should state that everything I am about to type here is 100% my own opinion based on my experiences in this field. Nothing I am writing should be taken as medical advice nor should I be taken as any sort of expert. I know this is probably obvious, but in today’s world of lawsuit happy lawyers I cannot take any risks.

The FDA today released a report that it is going to recommend warning labels on a slew of sleep medications because of a supposed higher risk of sleep-driving. Firstly I would like to say I am not going to deny that people on these sleeping pills are not driving their cars; it is fully possible and within the realm of possibility, but the cause is not. We like to treat symptoms and not diseases.

Parasomnias are sleeping disorders that usually involve some form of physical movement. This can include sleepwalking, sleep-eating, teeth grinding, or bouncing of one’s head. They are more common in children than adults, but adults are known to suffer from these conditions as well. Most people who suffer from them think they are anything other than a serious medical condition and therefore rarely seek help for them, but they do suffer the effects.

If a person with parasomnias does go to see a doctor, it is usually for help falling asleep because they feel exhausted during the day. Of course they are exhausted during the day since they got no real rest at night. They think they slept, but they didn’t. The doctor then prescribes a pill to help the patient get to sleep without ever bothering to think about why the patient is not sleeping.

The patient usually insists on a pill because they have self-diagnosed themselves (thanks to those great ads) and the doctors are too busy to argue so they give it to them. Then, months later, they suffer from their parasomnia again, only now they are also under the effects of a sleeping pill.

The pill is designed to help a person sleep through the night so of course it will keep this person asleep as they wander about. They probably had become aroused without the pill every other time it happened. The obvious conclusion is that the pill is the cause of the parasomnia.

The simple question is this- is the percent of those suffering from these parasomnias while on the medication higher than the percent of those who suffer without the medication.

If let’s say 3% of people (made up number)on medication sleep-walk and 3% of the general population (another made up number) does as well then I would say the parasomnia is in the patient and not a result of the pill. Of course you can’t sue a parasomnia for the same millions you can a drug company.

At some point in time my boss is going to read this entry and let me know all the things I got wrong so expect corrections.


Serena Joy said...

Interesting info., Kan. Luckily, I don't have many sleep problems. I get a bit of insomnia every now and then, but it's fleeting. When I have it, I take a couple of Tylenol PMs. I do think some sleep meds should come with better warning labels. I've heard of too many people getting behind the wheel after taking something like Ambien, and they're half asleep.

Kanrei said...

Every sleep med says not to drive a car if taking it.

littlebirdblue said...

I often barely sleep four hours in a night (Southern Writer and I used to be posting on each other's blogs at 3, 4, 5am). I want more sleep, but no way am I going to take meds.

I didn't know this was your field, Kanrei. I think it's fascinating.

Serena Joy said...

Oh, I know they have labels, but I think some of them probably should include extra warnings about duration and lingering effects.

Littlebird, 4-5 hours a night is about what I sleep, too. And I'm actually fine with it. If I sleep 7-8 hours, I get up feeling like a zombie.

RexZeitgiest said...

As someone who is suffering through one of his worst bouts of insomina, thanks.....

It really is horrible...I laying there all night unable to sleep, my mind going 100 mhp and unable to stop...

It really sucks..

Roxan said...

I've always avoided drug induced sleep. I'll have a warm glass of milk instead. It may be all in my head, but it does the trick for me.
I tend to have bizarre dreams almost every night. Lots of garbage in my subconscious I guess.