A new research abstract suggest that a treatment regimen of cognitive-behavioral therapy can reduce suicidal thoughts among individuals with insomnia.
Researchers discovered about 21 percent of participants with insomnia (65 of 303) reported having suicidal thoughts or wishes during the past two weeks.
Group cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia produced a statistically significant post-treatment reduction in suicidal ideation. Treatment sessions were conducted weekly until the final two sessions, which were conducted bi-weekly.
According to the authors, a growing body of evidence suggests that self-reported insomnia and poor sleep quality constitute modifiable risk factors for suicide.
Sleep complaints are recognized as significant suicide warning signs by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. However, no previous studies had evaluated the impact of a sleep intervention on suicidal ideation.
“This is the first investigation to show that a sleep-targeted intervention has a therapeutic impact on suicide risk specifically,” said lead author Rebecca Bernert, Ph.D. “This suggests that a treatment focus on sleep disturbances may have important implications for the prevention of suicidal behaviors.”
The study involved 303 community outpatients between 18 and 88 years of age who completed group cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia. The Beck Depression Inventory, which includes a question about suicidal thoughts or wishes, was administered at both baseline and post-treatment.
The study is timely as the most recent data indicates that the national suicide rate increased from 2008 to 2009, when suicide became the 10th-leading cause of death in the U.S.
Sadly, there were 36,547 deaths attributed to suicide in 2009, which was more than twice as many deaths as those that were attributed to homicide.
The new findings add to earlier finding by Bernert that a highly variable sleep schedules is linked to increases in suicidal risk at one week and three weeks.
Sleep irregularity also predicted greater mood sensitivity, which in turn predicted elevated suicidal symptoms.