Sleep disorders are associated with an increased risk for suicidal ideation and suicide attempt in youth presenting to emergency departments (EDs), according to new research published in the National Sleep Foundation’s Sleep Health journal.

For the study, researchers analyzed data from more than 65 million youth aged 6-24 years who visited an ED between 2015 and 2017.

Findings showed that youth presenting to EDs with a diagnosed sleep disorder were at increased risk for having thoughts of suicide. In fact, youth with at least one sleep disorder diagnosis had three times greater odds of an ED encounter involving suicidal ideation than those without a sleep disorder diagnosis. Results also showed that sleep disorders are underdiagnosed in youth presenting to EDs, relative to their estimated prevalence in the general population. 

“In this nationally representative sample of youth presenting to EDs, suicidal ideation was predicted by a sleep disorder diagnosis alone and when accounting for mental health diagnoses,” says study author Melynda D. Casement, PhD, from the department of psychology at the University of Oregon, in a release. “Furthermore, youth with a sleep disorder and either a mood or psychotic disorder had greater risk for suicidal ideation than youth with only one of these disorders. Especially considering our finding that sleep disorders are underdiagnosed in youth presenting to EDs, these results highlight the potential benefit of enhanced screening for sleep disorders as a tool for suicide prevention.” 

National Sleep Foundation vice president of research and scientific affairs, Joseph Dzierzewski, PhD, says in a release, “Sleep and mental health have an important and compelling connection, which has been part of our recent work at National Sleep Foundation. These investigators have added to the body of evidence about this relationship, specifically identifying the risk of suicidal ideation and attempt in adolescents who have a diagnosed sleep disorder. National Sleep Foundation is committed to helping all members of society, both young and older, with their sleep health—which, in turn, may yield valuable gains in mental wellness.” 

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