Is there a role for sleep medicine in suicide prevention?

Donna L. Littlewood, Kirsten Russell

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Suicide is a leading cause of preventable death worldwide, accounting for approximately 800,000 deaths per year [1]. Deaths by suicide represent only the “tip of the iceberg” of suicidal experiences, with an even larger proportion of the population reporting having attempted suicide, or thought about doing so [2]. Given the scale of the problem, suicide prevention research has sought to identify psychosocial and demographic factors that are associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviours. In recent years, growing evidence has highlighted links between sleep disorders and suicide [3] as well as non-fatal self-harm [4]. Notably, these relationships remain significant after controlling for symptoms of co-morbid mental illness. The association between sleep disorders and suicidal experiences has been replicated in a wide range of studies; in both clinical [5] and non-clinical populations [3], spanning wide age-ranges including adolescents [6] to older adults [7], and using subjective and objective assessment of sleep disturbance [8].
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages4
JournalSleep Medicine
Early online date23 Aug 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Aug 2019


  • suicide
  • suicide prevention
  • sleep
  • sleep medicine
  • sleep disturbance


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