Drinkers with Insomnia Run a High Risk of Suicide

A good night of sleep typically leaves you feeling refreshed the next day, while a lack of sleep can make you feel like a walking zombie. But a new study reveals we have a lot more to worry about when alcohol is factored into the equation.

Evaluating Alcohol, Insomnia and Suicide

projectknow-shutter405936178-bottles-of-alcoholWe need a certain amount of sleep at night so our bodies can repair themselves and fight off potential threats. And while it’s common knowledge that a lack of sleep can zap energy and destroy concentration, a new study shows that the sleep-deprived have more to worry about than energy.

Believe it or not, researchers from Mississippi State University were able to link insomnia to an increased risk of both of alcohol use and suicide.

Details of the Study

Lead investigator Michael Nadorff, PhD – an assistant professor at MSU – led his team through the grueling task of analyzing survey data from 375 undergraduate students. The surveys examined each participant’s insomnia symptoms, nightmares, alcohol use and risk of suicide.

Surprisingly, the scientists were able to determine that:

  • Alcohol use was significantly associated with suicide risk in women, but not in men.
  • Men and women showed both significant and indirect effects of alcohol use, which increased the risk of suicide through insomnia symptoms.
  • Although the study was unable to establish why poor sleep habits and alcohol can lead to suicide, it did lay the groundwork for future research.

A complete list of the study's findings were published in the December issue of the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.

Avoiding the Tragedy that is Suicide

Nadorff’s data is particularly relevant because, in the U.S., excessive alcohol use causes about 88,000 deaths per year, while another 38,000 deaths are attributed to suicide.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine reports that 10 percent of the population have chronic insomnia, while 15 to 20 percent have short-term insomnia. What’s more, Americans who experience both insomnia and depression are already at risk for suicidal thoughts. When you factor in the regular consumption of alcohol, that risk skyrockets.

And the Risks Don’t Stop There...

A separate study published last January in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research also found that teenagers who suffer from sleep issues could go on to struggle with drug and alcohol problems later in life.

Maria M. Wong, professor and director of Idaho State University’s experimental training department of psychology, analyzed data from 6,504 adolescents in 1995. They also conducted a follow-up in 2002.

Those with sleep difficulties (in 1994) had far higher instances of "alcohol-related interpersonal problems, binge drinking...driving under the influence, getting into a sexual situation one later regretted due to drinking...and drug-related problems at the second wave."

The findings are noteworthy because national polls have shown that 45 percent of adolescents don’t sleep enough.
Additional Reading: Talking to Your Kids about Drinking? 7 Valuable Conversation Tips

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