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Poor Sleep can Increase Suicide Risk in Old People

Aug 14, 2014 09:42 AM EDT
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Old people suffering from inadequate sleep are more likely to commit suicide, a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine has found.

Previous research has shown that poor quality sleep can lead to depression and cognitive problems in adults. The new study has found a link between loss of sleep and suicide risk.

"This is important because sleep disturbances are highly treatable, yet arguably less stigmatizing than many other suicide risk factors," said Rebecca Bernert, PhD, lead author of the study, according to a news release.

The study was based on data from 14,456 adults aged 65 years and older. The researchers compared sleep quality of 20 people, who died by committing suicide, with sleeping habits of 400 people over a ten-year period.  

The researchers found that people who reported poor-quality sleep had 1.4 times higher risk of suicide than other people.

The team stated that poor sleep is an independent risk factor for suicide in older adults.

"Suicide is the outcome of multiple, often interacting biological, psychological and social risk factors," Bernert said in a news release. "Disturbed sleep stands apart as a risk factor and warning sign in that it may be undone, which highlights its importance as a screening tool and potential treatment target in suicide prevention.

"Suicide is preventable," she added. "Yet interventions for suicide prevention are alarmingly scarce."

Previous research has shown that chronic sleep deprivation can lead to several health problems. In fact, lack of adequate shuteye at night can increase breast cancer risk. Sleep deprivation for just 24 hours can lead to hallucinations and even schizophrenia-like symptoms.

The study is published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry.

People suffering from suicidal thoughts can contact American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-TALK1-800-273-TALK), Bernert said.

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