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Scotty, The Naked Time, stardate 1704.3, Episode 7

Posts Tagged ‘insomnia’

The King’s New Medicine: on the soporific effect of homeopathy

Posted by apgaylard on June 10, 2011

This is the story of the King’s new clothes.

Now there was once a king who was absolutely insane about

new clothes and one day, two swindlers came to sell him what

they said was a magic suit of clothes. Now, they held up this

particular garment and they said, “Your Majesty, this is a magic suit.”

Well, the truth of the matter is, there was no suit there at all.

But the swindlers were very smart, and they said,

“Your Majesty, to a wise man this is a beautiful raiment

but to a fool it is absolutely invisible.”

THE KING’S NEW CLOTHES, From the film “Hans Christian Andersen” (1952)

 It’s Homeopathy Awareness Week (HAW) again in the UK from the 14th to 21st June.  This is an annual publicity campaign run by homeopathy organizations and a potion maker.  It’s an attempt to convince potential customers that homeopathy is useful for something significant.  The two main problems are: there is no real evidence that homeopathy can help with any specific health issue, and they are peddling magic pills that typically contain no medicine.

This event always gives me a strong sense of déjà vu: after failing to produce any proper evidence for being able to help with women’s health (2010) and hay fever (2009), this year it’s sleeplessness (insomnia).

The campaign’s website, ‘heal through homeopathy’, highlights the undoubted importance of the topic by claiming that, “… sleeplessness … affects an estimated 77% of people in GB.”  However, according to a National Health Service (NHS) publication, “Sleeplessness – A Self Help Guide” the figure is around 30%.  Perhaps the homeopaths are overstating the problem?

A summary of a recent YouGov poll* put it this way:

“The majority of the British public need between six and nine hours’ sleep a night to feel fully rested, according to a recent survey. 43% claim they need 6-7 hours and another 33% of the population stated they require 8-9 hours to feel fresh the following day. This appears to be consistent with the hours of sleep the public normally get with a huge 79% claiming they get between 6-9 hours each night. However, almost one in five respondents (18%) state that they get a just a maximum of five hours of sleep a night and just seven percent claim that they feel fully rested with this amount.”

This seems to suggest that a smaller percentage of the population feel they are not getting enough sleep than the homeopaths are suggesting.

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