In the first part of my series on the newest sleep studies, I covered a sleep study linking diet and sleep patterns. Today, we’ll have a look at a new study linking insomnia to suicidal thoughts.
The research, which appeared in February’s issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, used psychometric testing to analyze the mental state of 50 patients being treated for depression. Just over half the subjects had previously attempted suicide.
New Sleep Study Links Suicide and Sleep Habits
Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, lead author and chair of the Medical College at Georgia Regents University, told Medical News Today, “Insomnia and nightmares, which are often confused and go hand-in-hand, are known risk factors for suicide but just how they contribute was unknown.” The new study confirms the link between insomnia and suicide, as well as explicitly studying hopelessness about sleep – something other studies haven’t done.
Study participants had, on average, moderate insomnia. The researchers found that examining insomnia and suicidal thinking alone, insomnia was usually a predictor of suicidal ideation. But when the research took into account nightmares and “dysfunctional beliefs” about sleep, insomnia by itself isn’t necessarily strongly related to suicidal thinking. Rather, insomnia can trigger a specific kind of hopelessness, which “by itself is a powerful predictor of suicide,” according to McCall. “What it tells you is we have discovered a new predictor for suicidal thinking.”
The upshot? Treating nightmares or harmful attitudes about sleep may help prevent suicide before it happens. Sometimes, healthy sleep can literally be the difference between life and death.