Sleep and youth suicidal behavior: a neglected field

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Abstract

Purpose of review

Sleep undergoes substantial changes during adolescence and suicide risk begins to increase during this period as well. This review focuses on recent literature on the relationship between sleep and suicidal behavior and proposes directions for future research.

Recent findings

Adolescent sleep is characterized by widespread sleep restriction, irregular sleep schedules, daytime sleepiness, and elevated risk for sleep disturbances. More research on adolescent sleep and psychosocial impairment, psychiatric disorders, and suicidal behavior has been conducted. Suicidal psychiatric patients had more sleep disturbances including insomnia, hypersomnia, or nightmares than nonsuicidal patients. Shorter rapid eye movement latency and increased rapid eye movement activity have been noted to be a marker of suicidality in psychiatric patients. Epidemiological studies have demonstrated that insomnia, nightmares, and sleep insufficiency are associated with elevated risk for suicide. Although the link between insomnia and suicidal behavior appears to be mediated by depression, existing data suggest an independent predictive role of nightmares in future suicidal behavior.

Summary

Sleep loss or disturbances are likely to signal an increased risk of future suicidal action in adolescents. Large-scale prospective studies and neurobiological studies are needed for a better understanding of the complex relationship between sleep, psychopathology, and youth suicidal behavior.

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