Insomnia Can Lead to Suicidality in Adolescents: Study
Sleep can affect several important processes of the brain especially among adolescents, since people belonging to this age group experience rapid changes of their sleep-wake cycles. Most adolescents are recommended to sleep for at least 8 and a half hour per day. However, most teenagers nowadays lose sleep because of the food and drinks that they take, poor sleep hygiene and their active lifestyles. Their lack of sleep can cause chronic sleep deprivation and can lead to numerous medical consequences.
Lack of sleep can lead to behavioural problems, and several studies in the past have dwelt on the fact that chronic sleep deprivation and suicide have a possible relationship. Some experts claim that short sleep duration can increase the risk of suicidality in adolescents. It is within this context that Lee et al from Korea conducted their study.
The said researchers claimed that the most common cause of short sleep duration among adolescents is self-induced sleep restriction or wake extension. These teenagers fail to obtain sleep required to be alert during the daytime because they voluntarily stop themselves from sleeping, though unintentionally. Some of these teenagers may also have depression which may further compound the effects.
In this study, the researchers aimed to examine the association between behaviorally induced sleep insufficiency (BISS) and suicidality or depression in a large, community-based Korean adolescent sample. The researchers hypothesized that adolescents with BISS would have higher suicidality than those without BISS and that weekend oversleep would independently predict suicidality among adolescents. This study was a population-based, cross-sectional survey. A sample of 8,530 students (grades 7-11) were recruited in the Republic of Korea. The participants were 8,010 students who completed all questionnaires. The survey included the Beck Scale for Suicidal Ideation (SSI), the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI), a modified Epworth Sleepiness Scale (ESS), and questionnaires about sleep (weekday/weekend sleep schedule/duration, insomnia and snoring).
In this study the researchers found out that adolescents with behaviorally induced insufficient sleep syndrome (BISS) had higher SSI scores than those who slept ≥ 7 hours on weekdays, even after controlling for age, sex, and BDI score (F = 11.71, P < 0.001). After controlling for age and sex, longer weekend oversleep and shorter weekday sleep duration predicted a higher SSI score (β = 0.19, P < 0.001; β = 0.37, P < 0.001). The association between weekend oversleep and SSI score remained significant even after additionally controlling for BDI and ESS scores and presence of insomnia and snoring (β = 0.07, P < 0.01).
Thus the present study was able to identify that sleep insufficiency among adolescents is associated with increased suicidality. In addition, chronic sleep deprivation, as represented by weekend oversleep, was found to be associated with suicidality independently of depression, insomnia, snoring, and daytime sleepiness. Accordingly, the findings of this suggest that chronic sleep restriction among adolescents may independently increase suicide risk.
This is an eye opener for psychologists, psychiatrists and other health professionals to screen for chronic sleep deprivation and sleep problems among adolescents who are at increased risk for suicidality.
Lee YJ1, Cho SJ, Cho IH, Kim SJ. Insufficient sleep and suicidality in adolescents. Sleep. 2012 Apr 1;35(4):455-60.
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