From the Journals

Poor sleep tied to suicidal behaviors in college students



Poor sleep is associated with increased suicidal behaviors in college students – even when controlling for depression, a study of 1,700 students shows.

“Furthermore, findings suggest that some specific sleep components – shorter sleep duration, more frequent bad dreams, feeling too cold while sleeping, and greater sleep medication use – are particularly associated with increased suicidal behaviors in college students,” reported Stephen P. Becker, PhD, of the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Center, and his associates.

The researchers recruited students from two universities. Most of the students (65%) were female, white (82%), and in their first year of college (63%). The participants’ sleep was assessed using the nine-item Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index (PSQI), their depressive symptoms were assessed using the Depressive Anxiety Stress Scales-21, and their suicidal behavior was assessed using the Suicidal Behaviors Questionnaire-Revised (SBQ-R), which is a four-item, self-report measure.

About two-thirds of the students (64%) were found to have sleep problems (total PSQI score greater than 5), and 24% were found to have suicide risk (total SBQ-R score of at least 7). Of the students who were found to have suicide risk, 83% also had sleep problems.

Using regression analysis, Dr. Becker and his associates found that the odds of being classified with suicide risk were 6.5 times greater for students with depression and 2.7 times greater for those with sleep problems.

The results add to the literature suggesting that sleep would be an “important component to include in screening and intervention efforts to prevent suicidal ideation and attempts on college campuses,” the researchers wrote.

SOURCE: Becker SP et al. J Psychiatr Res. 2018 Apr;99:123-8.

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