New research out of the University of Manchester and published in the journal, BMJ Open, has identified the link between suicidal ideation (thoughts and behaviors) and sleep problems.
The study was conducted by scientists out of the School of Health Sciences at the University of Manchester, alongside some researchers from the University of Oxford. There were 18 participants interviewed about how sleep has played a role in their mood problems and suicidal tendencies.
Overall, there were three pathways to inter-related suicidal thoughts identified as developing from sleep deprivation or other sleep disorder. The first pathway was identified as being awake late at night, which heightened the risk of having suicidal thoughts and attempts. This is thought to be due in part to lack of sleep, as well as the lack of available resources to help at night.
The second pathway was noted to be a prolonged failure to achieve quality sleep through the night, which made life much more difficult for interviewees. This added to depressive symptoms, increased negative thinking processes, made focus and paying attention during the day difficult, and led to malaise or inactivity.
Lastly, the third pathway was the respondents reported that sleep served as the alternative to suicide because it allowed them to escape from their daily problems that were causing so much strife and discomfort while awake. Unfortunately, however, this desire to use sleep as an escape or avoidance tactic led to more sleeping during the day, which further exacerbated sleeping problems at night. This then reinforced the first two pathways noted above.
Lead author of the study, Donna Littlewood, noted that this research implies that there is a desperate need for service providers like healthcare specialists and social service agents that can help during the nighttime hours.
This new research underscores the importance of maintaining healthy sleep patterns, especially in relation to coping with mental health disorders, suicidal tendencies, and behavioral difficulties.
Furthermore, services at night should be a primary consideration within suicide action plans or prevention strategies used in the medical community. This is because these findings show that those who are awake late at night are at higher risk of suicide.
Rachael Herman is a professional writer with an extensive background in medical writing, research, and language development. Her hobbies include hiking in the Rockies, cooking, and reading.
© 2021 American Sleep Association.