Sleep and Suicide in Older Adults: An Opportunity for Intervention

Clin Ther. 2016 Nov;38(11):2332-2339. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2016.09.015. Epub 2016 Oct 15.


Whether as a standalone disorder or as a symptom associated with existing pathology, the prevalence of sleep disturbance increases with age. Older adults also experience a myriad of risk factors for suicide, including depression, and have elevated rates of suicide. There is now significant evidence linking sleep disturbances to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The use of pharmacologic means to treat insomnia (e.g., sedative hypnotics) is also commonplace among older cohorts and has been associated with suicide. Behavioral treatment of insomnia represents an efficacious alternative to pharmacotherapy among older adults, which while improving sleep, may concurrently reduce depressive symptomatology. Implications and clinical recommendations of the sleep-suicide relationship are discussed.

Keywords: older adults; sleep; sleep disturbance suicide.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Hypnotics and Sedatives / administration & dosage
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology*
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / psychology*
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • Suicide / psychology*


  • Hypnotics and Sedatives