Disrupted Sleep Patterns Up Risk of Suicide

A new U.K. study finds a clear link between sleep problems and suicidal thoughts and behaviors.

Researchers from The University of Manchester and the University of Oxford interviewed 18 participants about the role sleep problems have on suicidal tendencies.

From the discussions, investigators identified three inter-related pathways to suicidal thoughts arising from sleep problems.

The first was that being awake at night heightened the risks of suicidal thoughts and attempts, which in part was seen as a consequence of the lack of help or resources available at night.

Secondly, the research found that a prolonged failure to achieve a good night’s sleep made life harder for respondents, adding to depression, as well as increasing negative thinking, attention difficulties, and inactivity.

Finally, respondents said sleep acted as an alternative to suicide, providing an escape from their problems. However, the desire to use sleep as an avoidance tactic led to increased day time sleeping which in turn caused disturbed sleeping patterns — reinforcing the first two pathways.

The study is published in BMJ Open.

Donna Littlewood, lead author of the study, said the research has implications for service providers, such as health care specialist and social services.

“Our research underscores the importance of restoring healthy sleep in relation to coping with mental health problems, suicidal thoughts, and behaviors.

Moreover, the need for appropriate night time support services is paramount as researchers discovered that that those who are awake in the night are at an increased risk of suicide.

Source: University of Manchester