Insomnia linked to suicide: Guidelines for better sleep
New research finds insomnia could raise the risk of suicide. Scientists for the study explain insomnia can lead to specific feelings that a good night's sleep is hopeless, which alone can predict suicide.
The finding is published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine that highlights the toll insomnia can take on health and well-being.
Insomnia and nightmares, which are often confused and may go hand-in-hand, are known risk factors for suicide but just how they contribute was unknown, said Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, Chair of the Medical College of Georgia Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at Georgia Regents University in a press release.
The study also highlights the importance of screening for insomnia in primary care settings and asking patients about suicidal thoughts, the researchers say.
Researchers discovered the link between insomnia and suicide risk when they studied 50 patients who were depressed and on medication therapy.
More than half had attempted suicide. The patients were specifically asked about sleep with questions such as: “Do you think you will ever sleep again?”
McCall, who specializes in depression and sleep disorders said, "It was this dysfunctional thinking, all these negative thoughts about sleep that was the mediating factor that explained why insomnia was linked to suicide.”
People who can’t sleep and lose hope can find themselves in a downward spiral of worrying about their immune systems and other unrealistic thoughts related to not sleeping.
McCall says risk of suicide doubles for people who experience insomnia and are already depressed. He points out when people hate their jobs, have failed marriages and can’t communicate with the kids, they often also state “I can’t even get a good night’s sleep.”
Guidelines for sleep
McCall says there are guidelines to follow that can help lower the risk of suicide in already depressed patients with insomnia that include getting up at the same time every day, regardless of sleep time. It’s also important to wait until you’re sleepy to go to bed.
Avoiding alcohol and tobacco can also facilitate sleep. If you exercise, complete your workout at least four hours before bedtime. Give yourself plenty of time to digest your meal before hitting the sack.
Insomnia raises suicide risk in ways previously unknown. Feeling hopeless about ever getting a good night’s sleep can send those battling depression into a downward spiral of negative thoughts. If you’re depressed and hopeless about sleep, speak with your doctor for more help.
January 13, 2013
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