Poor Sleep Linked to More Suicidal Thoughts

By Sharon Moore on July 03, 2017

Researchers from Stanford University Medical School found that problems may provide early clues about worsening suicidal thoughts in at-risk young adults as well as a potential way to intervene.

"Suicide is the tragic outcome of psychiatric illness interacting with multiple biological, psychological and social risk factors," according to Rebecca Bernert, lead author of the study. "Sleep disturbances stand apart from other risk factors because they are visible as a warning sign, yet non-stigmatizing and highly treatable. This is why we believe they may represent an important treatment target in suicide prevention," she said.

The study involved 50 university students, aged 18 to 23. All had a history of suicide attempts or recent thoughts of suicide. Their sleep habits and quality were monitored for one week.

Findings revealed that sleep problems tend to be a warning sign of worsening suicidal thoughts in the following days and weeks. Variations in when students went to sleep and when they woke up was an especially strong warning sign.

The link between poor sleep and suicidal ideation remains the same even when researchers took into account other factors like level of depression, alcohol and drug use, and the severity of their suicidal symptoms.

"Sleep disturbances and suicidal ideation are both symptoms of depression, making it critical to disentangle these relationships and evaluate factors that stand alone to predict risk,"

"Compared to other risk factors for suicide, disturbed sleep is modifiable and highly treatable using brief, fast-acting interventions. Because sleep is something we universally experience, and we may be more willing to openly talk about it relative to our mental health, we believe its study may represent an important opportunity for suicide prevention," Bernert explained.

Currently, the researchers are investigating how suicides can be prevented through insomnia treatments.

Source of this article:

Poor Sleep May Worsen Suicidal Thoughts

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