Research to be presented at SLEEP 2024 shows that adequate sleep significantly reduces the likelihood of suicide attempts in bullied adolescents.


Summary: A new study to be presented at SLEEP 2024 highlights the critical role of sleep duration in moderating the association between bullying and suicide attempts among US adolescents. The research revealed that insufficient sleep significantly increases the likelihood of suicide attempts in bullied teens, with those sleeping four hours or less per night being twice as likely to attempt suicide. The findings emphasize the importance of sleep as a target for interventions to reduce suicide risk among adolescents.

Key Takeaways:

  • Adolescents who sleep four hours or less per night are twice as likely to attempt suicide, demonstrating the crucial role of sufficient sleep in reducing suicide risk among teens, especially those who experience bullying.
  • Sleep duration significantly moderates the relationship between bullying and suicide attempts, with increased sleep reducing the adverse effects of bullying on suicide risk.
  • The study emphasizes that improving sleep duration could be a vital intervention strategy to lower the risk of suicide among adolescents, highlighting the need for programs and policies that promote healthy sleep habits in teens.

Sleep duration significantly moderates the association between bullying and suicide attempts among adolescents in the United States, according to a new study to be presented at SLEEP 2024.

The study revealed that 15% of adolescents reported they were bullied at school, and 16% were bullied electronically; 10.2% reported they had attempted suicide during the past year; and 77.3% did not adhere to sleep duration recommendations. 

Adolescents who reported four hours of sleep or less per night were two times as likely to attempt suicide, and sleep duration significantly moderated the association between bullying in school and suicide attempts.

The Public Health Crisis of Adolescent Suicide

“Adolescent suicide and suicide attempts constitute a serious public health crisis in the United States,” says lead author Marie-Rachelle Narcisse, PhD, an assistant professor in the Warren Alpert School of Medicine of Brown University and a research scientist at the E.P. Bradley Hospital COBRE Center for Sleep and Circadian Rhythms in Child and Adolescent Mental Health, in a release. “The fact that sleep duration significantly modifies the association between bullying and suicide attempts is a remarkable finding.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second-leading cause of death among teens between 14 and 18 years of age. The American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that teens should sleep 8 to 10 hours on a regular basis to promote optimal health. Insufficient sleep in teenagers is associated with increased risk of self-harm, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts.

The study involved an analysis of data from the 2021 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, comprising a nationally representative sample of 17,134 participants. The researchers analyzed the relationships among electronic or school bullying, sleep duration, and past-year suicide attempts among adolescents between 12 and 18 years of age. Results were adjusted for potential confounders including sex, age, race/ethnicity, screen time, and poor mental health.

Implications for Intervention

Adolescents who were bullied in school or electronically were three times as likely to attempt suicide compared with those who were not bullied. Those reporting no bullying showed reduced likelihood of suicide attempts as sleep duration increased to seven hours, and the likelihood remained constant with more hours of sleep.

According to Narcisse, the results emphasize that sleep duration is an important target for interventions to reduce suicide in teens. “If improved sleep duration can inhibit the adverse effect of bullying on suicide attempts, then interventions aimed at improving sleep duration could potentially have a positive influence on lowering suicide risk among adolescents,” says Narcisse in a release.

This study was supported by a Centers of Biomedical Research Excellence grant from the National Institute of General Medical Sciences. The research abstract was published recently in an online supplement of the journal Sleep and will be presented Monday, June 3, and Wednesday, June 5, during SLEEP 2024 in Houston. 

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