Poor Sleep May Affect Suicide Risk

Sleep quality problems in older adults were a suicide risk factor in new study

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Trouble falling asleep, tossing and turning all night — we’ve all had a poor night’s sleep. And, aside from feeling tired the next day, there could be more serious repercussions associated with low sleep quality.

A new study found that people who reported poor sleep quality were more likely to take their own lives.

"Discuss sleep problems with your primary care physician."

The study was written by Rebecca Bernert, PhD, of the Mood Disorders Center at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, and colleagues.

The authors framed their research with previous work that established that older adults reported sleep disturbances more often than younger people. Older adults also had higher-than-average rates of suicide.

Suicide accounts for about 1 million deaths worldwide each year, according to the study.

The study included 420 participants — 20 of whom died from suicide — with an average age of 75. The follow-up period was 10 years.

The authors had participants report on sleep quality using a five-point scale to rate factors like difficulty falling asleep, difficulty staying asleep, waking up earlier than intended and sleepiness during the day.

The researchers found that people who reported poorer sleep quality at the beginning of the study had a 1.4-times higher risk of suicide than participants who reported normal sleep quality.

Specifically, difficulty falling asleep and experiencing unrestful sleep were the two factors closely associated with increased suicide risk.

The authors concluded that screening for poor sleep quality could be a clinical tool used in suicide prevention.

"Targeting disturbed sleep as a visible warning sign of suicide may, in this way, constitute a novel opportunity for improved risk detection, particularly among those at elevated risk," the study authors wrote.

The study was published online Aug. 13 in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA Psychiatry.

Funding was provided by the National Institutes of Health, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.

The authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
August 13, 2014
Last Updated:
August 15, 2014