Is Insomnia Linked to Suicide?

Can insomnia predict suicidal behavior? Zach Simmons, a graduate student in psychology, with the help of his mentors, Gary Burlingame and Daniel Kay of the psychology department, found in a recent study that symptoms of insomnia are a more accurate predictor of suicidal behavior than thoughts of suicide.  As Simmons explains, “insomnia is associated with suicide, even after controlling depressive symptoms.”

In their study, the researchers wanted to see how suicide, suicide attempts, and non-suicidal groups have different experiences with insomnia, and if it could be a predictor of suicide even when suicidal thoughts were not self-reported.  The study used a sample of 194 patients from a mental health facility in Ogden, Utah, who died in the ten year span from 2008-2018 to find answers. These patients self-reported on suicidality and insomnia, which they defined as “trouble falling asleep or staying asleep” and “(having) thoughts of ending my life.”

Simmons and his mentors found that reports from the groups that both attempted and committed suicide reported experiencing insomnia more often than the non-suicidal group, and whether suicidal thoughts were present or not, insomnia was linked to suicidal deaths. As Simmons explains, “regardless of someone’s self-reported suicidal thoughts, including no thoughts of suicide, self-reported symptoms of insomnia were more frequent in those who died by suicide.” The important findings of this study are that “symptoms of insomnia predict suicidal behavior better than thoughts of suicide.”

So, why is it important to know that insomnia is a better indicator of suicidal behavior, and what do these findings mean for someone who experiences insomnia? Simmons explains: “For those with insomnia, this study highlights that they may be at higher risk of suicidal behavior than those who only have suicidal thoughts. It is significant that insomnia is a better indicator of suicidal behavior because insomnia is a modifiable risk factor that can be treated, and in turn, hopefully reduce suicidality.” To find out more about this important findings of this study, read the entire article here.

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