The Irony of Sleep Disturbances on Increasing One's Suicidal Thoughts but Preventing Suicide Itself

Khryss | Published 2017-07-02 11:52
I think I can't stress enough how sleep is a vital part of our lives--we do it to recharge our bodies and prepare for the next day. Not getting enough sleep doesn't only affect us physically but mentally and psychologically too; it can even be a symptom of depression, stress, and a variety of illnesses. Lesser and lesser sleep is also linked to having suicidal thoughts. Ironically, a new study found that it can also be used to prevent suicide! "Suicide is the tragic outcome of psychiatric illness interacting with multiple biological, psychological and social risk factors," said Rebecca Bernet, a suicidologist and 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." Researchers gathered 50 Stanford University students aged 18 to 23 and had attempted suicide or have thought of doing it. The researchers then monitored their sleep for one week and specifically took in different factors like levels of how severe their suicidal thoughts are, depression, alcohol and drug abuse for a more comprehensive and reliable study. With this, they found that in the following days and weeks, sleep problems were unsurprisingly shown to increase suicidal thoughts. It even continued after more than a week, with some students having more nightmares and insomnia. However, such increased sleepless nights have also drawn attention from other people. Hence, researchers suggested that sleep can be used as a "proposed biomarker of suicide". "Compared to other risk factors for suicide, disturbed sleep is modifiable and highly treatable using brief, fast-acting interventions," Bernet explained. "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." The researchers are currently doing insomnia treatments in their suicide prevention studies.
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