February 14, 2013
Insomnia, Nightmares Could Trigger Suicidal Tendencies
Michael Harper for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online
A new study has found insomnia could be a trigger that leads to depression and suicidal thoughts. While feelings of hopelessness about a job or a relationship may lead someone to have suicidal tendencies, Dr. W. Vaughn McCall, Chair of the Medical College of Georgia Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior at Georgia Regents University, claims the hopelessness from not being able to go to sleep at night could also trigger these kinds of suicidal thoughts.
“Insomnia and nightmares, which are often confused and go hand-in-hand, are known risk factors for suicide but just how they contribute was unknown,” said Dr. McCall in a statement.
“This study reaffirms that link and adds the element of hopelessness about sleep that is independent of other types of hopelessness, such as those regarding personal relationships and careers.
“It´s fascinating because what it tells you is we have discovered a new predictor for suicidal thinking.”
This new study, which has been published in the February issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, employed psychometric testing to determine the mental state of some 50 individuals being treated as an inpatient, outpatient, or in the emergency room. Each of these participants was between 20 and 84 years old. 72 percent of these research participants were women, and 56 percent of those had previously attempted suicide at least once.
By using this test, the researchers were able to filter out other suicide risks such as depression and look specifically for a link between insomnia and suicidal thoughts. The researchers asked the patients questions to assess their level of helplessness and sleep habits, such as “Do you think you will ever sleep again?”
“It was this dysfunctional thinking, all these negative thoughts about sleep that was the mediating factor that explained why insomnia was linked to suicide,” said Dr. McCall.
Upon further analysis, the researchers found, when isolated, insomnia became an accurate predictor of suicidal thoughts. However, when disturbing dreams and frequent nightmares were considered, insomnia had little to do with these patients´ suicidal thoughts.
Now that Dr. McCall and his team have discovered this link, they hope doctors and physicians will begin to use this knowledge when treating their patients. For instance, if a doctor treats a patient who is having trouble sleeping, Dr. McCall suggests this doctor should ask if the patient has been having suicidal thoughts as well.
While this study has certainly shown a possible link between sleeplessness and depression, Dr. McCall hopes larger studies will be done on a broader scale to get a more accurate picture of this relationship. As it stands, this study acts as a warning signal to those doctors who are currently treating insomnia-sufferers.
“The likelihood of being suicidal at least doubles with insomnia as a symptom,” McCall noted in closing.
“If you talk with depressed people, they really feel like they have failed at so many things. It goes something like, ℠My marriage is a mess, I hate my job, I can´t communicate with my kids, I can´t even sleep.´ There is a sense of failure and hopelessness that now runs from top to bottom and this is one more thing.”