Poor sleep raises suicide risk in older adults
Researchers reported in the journal JAMA Psychiatry that adults who experience disturbed sleep were 1.4 more times likely to die by suicide over a 10-year period compared to those who sleep and feel refreshed when they awake.
In conducting their study, researchers followed more than 14,400 adults ages 65 and older living in Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa and North Carolina, for 10 years. At the start of the study, participants answered questions about how often they experienced sleep troubles, as well as questions used to assess symptoms of depression. During the study, about 20 participants committed suicide. The researchers then compared those 20 individuals to 400 people of about the same age who did not die from suicide. They found that people in the study who reported poor sleep were more likely to die from suicide than those who reported that they slept well, even after accounting for symptoms of depression.
While the link between suicide and poor sleep remains unclear, the researchers believe that lack of sleep may impair the brain’s ability to process emotional information, which can lower the threshold for acting out on suicidal thoughts.
The researchers said the finding suggests that doctors and therapists should view consistent disturbed sleep as a suicide warning sign.