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Depression is an insidious disorder that can end very badly, especially when you do not seek help. Unfortunately, suicide is still a taboo subject. However, avoiding it does not make it go away; on the contrary, it throws a stigma on these thoughts that often deters people from seeking help.
In Spain 10 people commit suicide every day. In the world, some 800,000 people commit suicide every year. Suicidal attempts far exceed those figures. Behind each number, there is the story of an anguished person and the people he leaves behind, who are generally gripped by a terrible sense of guilt.
The risks of a bad night’s sleep
“It is always comforting to think about suicide: this way you can cope with more than one bad night”, said Friedrich Nietzsche. Now a new study conducted at the University of Manchester with people suffering from depression revealed that sleep problems are directly related to suicidal thoughts.
Suicidal ideas are the result of a complex communion of different factors. However, in this research the psychologists analyzed the role of sleep, especially since it is a “modifiable” risk factor.
In the study, they recruited 51 people who suffered from major depression. They all used special watches that monitored total sleep time, sleep efficiency and sleep latency over a week. Each participant also kept a sleep diary, on which they were indicating the suicidal thoughts.
The researchers discovered that when people slept little and badly, the next day they had more suicidal thoughts, regardless of the severity of the depressive symptoms.
Why does sleep accentuate suicidal thoughts?
Sleep is very important for our physical and mental well-being. When we sleep our body recovers from the fatigue of the day, but the biggest “revolution” occurs in our brain as, on the one hand, it is released from the waste substances of the diurnal metabolism and, on the other hand, it processes the experiences we had during the day, subtracting part of their emotional impact.
That means that when we sleep, a part of our brain processes what has happened to us, converting those experiences into narrative experiences that we can insert into our life history. When that processing does not take place, the negative experiences remain active, dragging their emotional load, which probably contributes to seeing the world even grayer.
Sleep disturbances are common in people who suffer from mental disorders, not only in depression but also in anxiety. However, the good news is that there are not only sleeping pills but also other natural therapies such as Yoga and Meditation that significantly improve the quality of sleep.
Littlewood, D. L. et. Al. (2018) Short sleep duration and poor sleep quality predict next-day suicidal ideation: an ecological momentary assessment study.Psychological Medicine.