Nightmares and unhealthy beliefs about sleep can increase the risk of suicide in people who are depressed, says a new study.
The findings confirm earlier studies of the association of sleep problems with an increased risk of suicide, and suggest that doctors focus on certain symptoms to reduce this risk, the researchers said.
Unhealthy ideas about sleep can take many forms: for example, the idea that bad sleep will interfere with sleep for a whole week, or that losing sleep will have dire and irreversible consequences. Such ideas carry an atmosphere of hopelessness, emotions that, as the researchers know, are associated with the risk of suicide.
“Insomnia can lead to a very specific type of hopelessness and hopelessness, which in itself is a powerful predictor of suicide,” said researcher Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, head of the Department of Behavioral Psychiatry and Health at Georgia State University.
While the factors that influence suicide risk are not the same for everyone, “for some patients, I think sleep problems are part of the symptoms,” McCall said.
During the study, scientists interviewed 50 depressed people aged 20 to 84 years, some of whom were in the hospital. Nearly every patient received some type of psychiatric treatment, and 56 percent tried to commit suicide at least once. The study showed a connection between insomnia and suicidal thoughts: the harder the person had insomnia, the more likely he was to express his suicidal thoughts and desires.
Scientists claim that treating nightmares or unhealthy beliefs about sleep with psychotherapy or perhaps medications can reduce the risk of suicide, but more research is needed to make this certain.