Sleep disturbances are an underestimated risk factor for suicidal ideation and behavior. Previous research provided preliminary support of a temporal relationship between sleep disturbances and suicidal ideation. The present study therefore sought to investigate the prospective association between sleep disturbances, passive and active suicidal ideation, and further psychological risk factors, such as state impulsivity and depression.
Seventy-three psychiatric inpatients (71% female) with unipolar depressive disorder and current or lifetime suicidal ideation took part in an ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Participants filled out a baseline assessment and data were collected via smartphones over a 6-days period. Multilevel analyses with sleep disturbance as predictor for active and passive suicidal ideation, state impulsivity, and depression were carried out.
Patients with sleep disturbance experienced more active suicidal ideation, but no passive suicidal ideation, the following day. Of the four state impulsivity items, one item was significantly associated with sleep disturbance. Sleep disturbance had no effect on next-day depression. Limiting factors are the small and homogeneous sample along with the rather short observation period in an inpatient setting.
The micro-longitudinal study provides preliminary support for sleep disturbance as a proximal risk factor for next-day active suicidal ideation. Clinically, results indicate to consider the evaluation and treatment of sleep disturbances for an improved risk assessment and prevention of suicide.