Women who use alcohol are at an elevated risk of attempting suicide. In addition, suffering from insomnia may also elevate that risk.
Michael Nadorff, PhD, of Mississippi State University in Starkville, and colleagues had 375 undergraduate students fill out a questionnaire about insomnia symptoms, nightmares, alcohol use and suicide risk.
For men, there was no direct effect of alcohol use on suicide risk, the researchers reported in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine. However, there was a significant indirect link between alcohol use increasing the risk of suicide through insomnia.
“These results are important as they help demonstrate that alcohol use is associated with an increase in suicide risk, and that this increase may be partially due to insomnia symptoms," Nadorff said in a statement. “By better understanding this relationship, and the mechanisms associated with increased risk, we can better design interventions to reduce suicide risk."
Although the study’s design did not allow for examination of causality, the researchers said it provides the groundwork for additional research to determine the relationship between alcohol use, insomnia and suicide risk.
About 10% of the population has chronic insomnia disorder, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and between 15% and 20% of adults have short-term insomnia. Both insomnia types are more common in women than men.
A new study is the first to show that insomnia symptoms mediate the relationship between alcohol use and suicide risk, and that this mediation is moderated by gender. The study suggests that the targeted assessment and treatment of specific sleep problems may reduce the risk of suicide among those who use alcohol.
The study found that alcohol use was significantly associated with suicide risk among women. However, further analysis revealed that insomnia symptoms explained a significant proportion of the relationship between alcohol and suicide risk. For men, there was no direct effect of alcohol use on suicide risk, but there was a significant indirect effect of alcohol use increasing suicide risk through insomnia symptoms.