People who have an acute psychiatric problem and report an increase in severe nightmares may be at increased risk for suicide.
So says new research that examined 82 patients who were in a community mental health hospital admissions unit awaiting an emergency psychiatric evaluation.
“Sleep disturbances, especially nightmares, appear to be an acute warning sign and risk factor for suicide,” said lead researcher Rebecca Bernert.
“Given that poor sleep is amenable to treatment, and less stigmatized than depression and suicide, our findings could impact standardized suicide risk assessment and prevention efforts.”
Patients’ nightmares, insomnia, depression and suicidal tendencies were assessed through several questionnaires, including the Disturbing Dreams and Nightmare Severity Index, Insomnia Severity Index (ISI), Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), and the Beck Scale for Suicide Ideation (BSS).
Results indicate that severe nightmares were independently associated with elevated suicidal symptoms after accounting for the influence of depression. Symptoms of insomnia alone were not associated with elevated suicidal symptoms. These findings suggest that nightmares stand alone as a suicide risk factor.
This new research emphasizes the need for a more thorough assessment of sleep among patients, as such screenings may present an important opportunity for intervention.
The study also noted that sleep complaints are now listed among the top 10 warning signs of suicide by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA).
Sleep and mood disturbances are closely related, and depression remains the single best predictor of suicide.
The study was presented at SLEEP 2009, the 23rd Annual Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.
Source: Associated Professional Sleep Societies