Insomnia Symptoms and Suicide-Related Ideation in U.S. Army Service Members

Behav Sleep Med. 2020 Nov-Dec;18(6):820-836. doi: 10.1080/15402002.2019.1693373. Epub 2019 Nov 18.


Background: Insomnia has been identified as a key risk factor for suicide, though most studies have been limited to global measures of these constructs. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the link between insomnia symptoms and five different aspects of suicide-related ideation. Participants: 1,160 active U.S. Army service members (719 male; Mage = 31.2; SDage = 8.62). Methods: As part of an archival analysis, retrospectively assessed insomnia, depression, anxiety symptoms, as well as suicide-related ideation, were evaluated. Suicide-related ideation was assessed in terms of: thoughts of death, thoughts of suicide, suicidal plan, suicidal intent, and suicidal communication. Results: Subjects with clinically significant insomnia symptoms were 3.5 times more likely to report any suicide-related ideation, and approximately 3 times more likely to report thoughts of death and thoughts of suicide. More frequent nocturnal awakenings (i.e., waking up three or more times during a single night) were associated with a greater likelihood of reporting thoughts of death or suicide, whereas greater middle insomnia (i.e., waking up and having difficulty getting back to sleep) was associated with lower odds of experiencing thoughts of suicide, suicidal plan, and suicidal intent. Conclusions: A more refined delineation of insomnia and suicide-related ideation may serve to clarify the nature of the association, and potentially offer some clues as to the underlying mechanisms. With regard to potential clinical implications, the results support that careful assessment of insomnia symptoms, suicide-related ideation, and their respective subtypes, is important and may influence how we estimate risk for suicide.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Military Personnel / psychology*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / complications*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology
  • Suicidal Ideation*
  • United States