Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have found that more sleep is associated with lower suicide risk in those with insomnia. The findings showed that in those with some suicide risk—as exemplified by self-reports of suicidal thoughts—there was a 72%  drop in the likelihood of moderate or high risk of suicide for every hour of sleep those persons reported getting at night.

The research team from the Penn Behavioral Sleep Medicine Research Program merged and assessed data from two studies of insomnia that included 471 total subjects. Of the total subjects, 73 indicated suicide risk, with 55 classified as low suicide risk and 18 classified as moderate or high risk. Using a statistical analysis, the authors determined that variations in suicide risk were successfully differentiated using sleep duration. As such, increased sleep duration was associated with lower likelihood of moderate/high suicide risk, versus low risk.

The authors note that the results highlight the importance of sleep for our mental and physical well-being. Insomnia is a common disorder, with about 1 in 3 Americans experiencing symptoms at any given time, and about 1 in 10 Americans probably meet criteria for an insomnia disorder that should be treated. Insomnia is an important medical condition that not only has implications for health, functioning during the day, and quality of well-being, but it may also lead to increased risk of suicide.

The study was presented June 4 at SLEEP 2013, the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.