In a new study, people age 65 and older who reported trouble sleeping were more likely to commit suicide than those who slept well.
Doctors who treat patients with depression or a history of suicide attempts should consider sleep problems a further warning sign, experts say.
“The majority of individuals who die by suicide visit their doctor in the months preceding, and these are missed opportunities to enhance detection and intervene,” says lead author Rebecca A Bernert of the Stanford Mood Disorders Centre at Stanford University School of Medicine in California.
Sleep can stand alone as a risk factor for death by suicide, even when depression is accounted for, Bernert says, though sleep problems are common for many people who should not be alarmed by this news.
Of the 14,456 people researchers followed over 10 years, 20 died by suicide. The study team compared the answers those 20 people gave in a series of interviews to questions about symptoms of depression, and mental and physical functioning to the answers of 400 others similar in age, sex and location.
Those who went on to commit suicide tended to rate their sleep poorer at the start of the study than the comparison group, which was true even when researchers took symptoms of clinical depression into account.
With depression accounted for, poor sleep quality was associated with a 20% higher risk of death by suicide, Bernert explained. Since only 20 out of nearly 15,000 people in this study died by suicide, even with a 20 percent increase in risk the absolute chance of dying by suicide would still be less than two tenths of one percent.
by KATHRYN DOYLE.