Background: Sleep problems appear to represent an underappreciated and important warning sign and risk factor for suicidal behaviors. Given past research indicating that disturbed sleep may confer such risk independent of depressed mood, in the present report we compared self-reported insomnia symptoms to several more traditional, well-established suicide risk factors: depression severity, hopelessness, PTSD diagnosis, as well as anxiety, drug abuse, and alcohol abuse symptoms.
Methods: Using multiple regression, we examined the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationships between insomnia symptoms and suicidal ideation and behavior, controlling for depressive symptom severity, hopelessness, PTSD diagnosis, anxiety symptoms, and drug and alcohol abuse symptoms in a sample of military personnel (N=311).
Results: In support of a priori hypotheses, self-reported insomnia symptoms were cross-sectionally associated with suicidal ideation, even after accounting for symptoms of depression, hopelessness, PTSD diagnosis, anxiety symptoms and drug and alcohol abuse. Self-reported insomnia symptoms also predicted suicide attempts prospectively at one-month follow up at the level of a non-significant trend, when controlling for baseline self-reported insomnia symptoms, depression, hopelessness, PTSD diagnosis and anxiety, drug and alcohol abuse symptoms. Insomnia symptoms were unique predictors of suicide attempt longitudinally when only baseline self-reported insomnia symptoms, depressive symptoms and hopelessness were controlled.
Limitations: The assessment of insomnia symptoms consisted of only three self-report items. Findings may not generalize outside of populations at severe suicide risk.
Conclusions: These findings suggest that insomnia symptoms may be an important target for suicide risk assessment and the treatment development of interventions to prevent suicide.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.