The use of cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia to treat sleep problems can reduce suicidal ideation, according to research presented last week at SLEEP 2011, the 25th Anniversary Meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, held in Minneapolis.

The findings show that about 21% of participants with insomnia—65 of 303 participants—reported having suicidal thoughts or wishes during the past 2 weeks. Group cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia produced a statistically significant post-treatment reduction in suicidal ideation. Treatment sessions were conducted weekly until the final two sessions, which were conducted bi-weekly.

According to the researchers, a growing body of evidence suggests that self-reported insomnia and poor sleep quality constitute modifiable risk factors for suicide. Sleep complaints are listed among the top suicide warning signs by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. No previous studies, however, had evaluated the impact of a sleep intervention on suicidal ideation.

The study included 303 community outpatients between 18 and 88 years of age who completed group cognitive-behavioral therapy for insomnia. The Beck Depression Inventory, which includes a question about suicidal thoughts or wishes, was administered at both baseline and post-treatment.