There used to be a joke going the rounds about the relationship between doctors and a patient. When the patient asks for treatment, the doctors reply. “This is a time for mind over matter. We don’t mind and you don’t matter.” It may not be very funny, but it makes the point that many doctors have very poor people skills and frequently do not really care what happens to their patients. The notion of doctoring as a caring profession is just another of those urban myths. The majority are in the game for the money and high status. They want the maximum revenue with the minimum effort. Yet, there is another side to the joke. There has long been real scientific evidence of the so-called placebo effect. Put simply, this occurs when a patient given a fake medication or an ineffective substance gets better because he or she believes the treatment will be effective. This is not to accuse patients of being hypochondriacs with imaginary illnesses and diseases. But to recognize the genuine power of the mind to control the body. People who believe strongly enough in the effectiveness of a particular method to cure them will often experience the cure. In a recent clinical trial of a new drug to treat lupus, about one-third of the participants given the placebo recovered. Perhaps this is the real power of mind over matter.
All of which brings us to the placebo effect applied to insomnia. If you ask a doctor how to get to sleep and then stay asleep until dawn comes, the majority will offer to write the standard prescription. Those who prefer to find a natural solution may then be tempted into the world of homeopathy where natural substances are used to treat diseases and disorders. Indeed, as you surf the net, you will find thousands of sites offering to sell you “all natural” products to cure all ills. Remembering the placebo effect, you may well find any of these substances effective if you believe strongly enough that they will work. Scientists who have studied the phenomenon map changes in brain waves. Psychologists note mood changes. The result is a form of self-hypnosis where people feel themselves getting better. Ironically, the Federal Trade Commission now terms these drugs and potions as “credence products”. Combine the ideas that people want the drug to work and do not want to feel they have been ripped off. The result is often a cure.
Before you all rush on to the internet to buy expensive “all natural” credence products to treat your insomnia, there is a completely free treatment with a small mountain of scientific evidence to show it works. This is meditation and relaxation therapy. Instead of having to rely on ambien every night which, incidentally will ensure a good night’s sleep, it is far better to learn how to meditate and reduce the stress in your life. Once you achieve a true level of relaxation, you will find sleep comes naturally. But if you cannot believe in this strongly enough, you should buy ambien. All the scientific trials demonstrate this drug as consistently effective in producing sleep without many of the adverse side effects sometimes caused by other drugs. This is a form of involuntary sleep because it is chemically induced. Over the long term, medication is free and effective. If only you believe in it strongly enough.