While killing a few minutes in a Sydney bookshop, I picked up a book called Insomniac by Gayle Green. It was one of those moments when you think that really, you should buy some sort of engrossing novel, but that since the pleasures of a novel can be very short-lived, you buy a non-fiction tome instead. Later, the friend at whose place I was staying laughed when she saw me reading it bed-time: wasn't a book about insomnia just going to keep me awake?
Gayle Green has been an insomniac all her life. She embarked on a comprehensive study in response to what she perceived as a lack of understanding of insomnia in all its forms. Her thesis: insomnia is a separate entity from those maladies of which it's often seen as a symptom (could it not be possible that insomniacs are depressed because they can't sleep, rather than the reverse? etc). Deservedly, insomniacs and their condition should be an object of autonomous study.
Green is somewhat confounded by the 'silos' approach of the medical profession (she attended a lot of sleep research conference in which people got to ride their own hobby horses). She follows every possible highway and byway: drug therapy, machines-that-go-ping studies, biochemical findings (some indications that while insomniacs share some similarities with depressives in the brain chemistry dept there are also some differences), behavioural studies (someone like me who claims early-onset insomnia would be asked to explore painful childhood memories and experiences as the root of their sleeplessness -- a shame I don't have any). She suggests that insomnia is a multi-faceted condition and that although there are some common themes, it's impossible to reduce the condition to any one cause -- particular personality profile, set of behaviours, etc. She also thinks it should be recognised as debilitating by employers (e.g. insomniacs should be allowed to come in late to work) and that physicians should assist in managing the condition rather seeking to cure it (e.g. dole out the occasional helpful pill).
Although Green's book is usefully comprehensive, she is heavily into 'confession'...I'm tempted to add 'in the way of much American feminist writing', tho that would be generalising and stereotyping. There's much recounting of Green's sleepless writhing (the wrong kind) on bed at night and the many creative combinations of 'meds', remedies, etc, she's used (stories which are, for my money, nowhere as interesting or entertaining as her accounts of sleep experts' conferences). The upshot is you have to wade through a lot of 'stuff' to get to the facts. I find this kind of writing counterproductive: too much whinging and you're going to come across as a victim and a problem-person, (tho that's speaking from a stoical Australian perspective. It might work for other peeps).