It’s a well-known fact that sleep deprivation affects our looks, concentration, mood and even our diet. But a new study now shows that poor sleep may be more dangerous than you think – it increases the risk of suicide in older adults.
Difficulty sleeping may in fact be a stronger contributor to suicide risk than depression, drugs or alcohol, scientists say. Researchers from the Stanford University School of Medicine conducted a 10-year study on 400 people, ages 65 and older, 20 of whom committed suicide. They were all interviewed over the course of the study and after analyzing the answers, scientists found that people with sleep problems were 1.4 times more likely to die by suicide. These respondents cited trouble falling asleep and not feeling refreshed when waking up as the most common issues. After counting the symptoms of depression, sleep-deprived participants were still 1.2 times more likely to end their own lives.
The researchers say that the results suggest that poor sleep can be considered a separate suicide risk factor, independent of depression or any other. The risk increases with age, as older adults are more likely to have sleeping problems. But poor sleep also causes decreased production of the hormone melatonin in the body, which has been linked to numerous diseases and conditions such as memory loss, dementia, various cancers, periodontal disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, herpes, hair loss, hearing loss, glaucoma, autism, Chlamydia, hypertension, and many more. You can only imagine how important sleep is for the physiological and mental health. In addition, lack of sleep often leads to more negative emotional responses at home and at work.
Other warning signs of increased suicide risk include extreme mood shifts, showing feelings of rage, loneliness, isolation and withdrawing. People at heightened risk are also often anxious or agitated,; they behave recklessly, use alcohol or drugs, and talk about being a burden to others. Doctors also say that they often talk about wanting to die and they sometimes look for a way to kill themselves such as searching online or buying a gun. However, this is a preventable death, according to experts, especially considering that most of the suicide-risk individuals actually seek for help. Nearly 80% of all people attempting suicide, went to their doctor in the past month.