“Sleep is life’s nurse, sent from heaven to create us anew day by day.” The quote by novelist and dramatist Charles Reade aptly describes “sleep” as the most productive and important act of our life. Getting enough sleep has numerous advantages, the most important aspect being its role in protecting one’s mental and physical health and in improving the quality of life.
But what happens when someone struggles to get even forty winks? Studies have shown that sleep deprivation can cause a number of diseases and hamper the normal functioning of life. A recent study by the University of Manchester’s School of Health Sciences, in collaboration with the University of Oxford, suggested that sleep problems could trigger suicidal thoughts or behaviors.
Those awake at night at higher risk of attempting suicide
In the study, titled “Understanding the role of sleep in suicide risk: qualitative interview,” published in the journal BMJ Open in August 2016, the scientists interviewed 18 individuals to understand what triggers suicidal thoughts and behaviors in people who do not get adequate sleep. They identified three pathways to suicidal thought that were entwined with sleep-related disorders:
- Sleepless nights acted as key drivers for attempting suicide: It was observed that those who stayed awake at night were prone to develop devastating suicidal thoughts and related behaviors. The scientists contributed this anomalous behavior to the lack of support or proper resources at night.
- Sleep deprivation over long period posed severe challenges: A long-term sleep impairment was found to result in an array of ailments, such as depression, difficulty in paying attention, negative thinking, etc. A good night’s sleep can go a long way in helping an individual encounter these problems and lead a normal life.
- Sleep considered as an alternative to suicide: The participants revealed that sleep gave them a chance to escape from problems, and hence, acted as substitute for suicide. This attitude of using sleep as an avoidance tactic led the respondents to spend more time sleeping during the day, which resulted in disrupted sleep pattern and, in turn, gave an impetus to the above two pathways.
The study can be relevant for those who work as service providers, including those who are involved in social welfare activities, along with health care practitioners. “Our research underscores the importance of restoring healthy sleep in relation to coping with mental health problems, suicidal thoughts and behaviors,” said lead author of the study Donna Littlewood.
According to the researchers, suicide prevention strategies should take into account the night-time service provision as the risk of suicidal tendencies increases considerably for those who remain awake at night.
Seeking professional help
Most people encounter sleep-related problems at some point in their life, which often result in persistent problems, including certain physical and mental impairments. However, by managing the sleep pattern and sleep needs, one can manage symptoms of depression or suicidal tendencies.
The current methods of diagnosis of various mental illnesses need to be reconsidered to avoid any delay in diagnosis and treatment. Also, further studies need to be carried out concerning signs that help predict problems arising due to sleep deprivation and devise innovative treatment strategies to overcome them.
The societal prejudice against various mental disorders prevents many patients from seeking timely professional help. If you or your loved one is suffering from any mental disorder, contact the Sovereign Mental Health Services to know about our various mental health treatment centers. Call at our 24/7 helpline number 866-954-0529 or chat online to find out about our rehabs which are among the best mental health facilities in the U.S.