April 13, 2020

Why we are talking about Sleep and Suicide

At JKBF we’ve been following the topic of sleep closely, as increasing evidence shows disordered sleep may be a modifiable, biological risk factor for suicide. Since we know that college students often have poor sleep patterns and show increasing levels of mental health concerns, we were pleased to partner with Active Minds to bring sleep to their February conference. In presentations by the Center for College Sleep’s Roxanne Prichard, PhD and Birdie Cunningham we learned valuable information about sleep, and a follow-up survey of workshop attendees showed that they did too. Attendees reported acquiring new skills or knowledge, confirmed relevance, and agreed that this topic should be repeated. One respondent commented, “This talk was at the top of my list to attend because sleep is a modifiable way we can improve our mental health. This talk was so important to the targeted audience of conference, young adults. I would love to see more evidenced based, research presentations at conference in the future!”

In Sleep Matters we bring you highlights of Dr. Prichard’s presentations and additional insights from our reading. You can learn more by selecting the topic of sleep in our News From the Web

And while college students may have some not-so-great sleep habits, the biological role of sleep in mental health applies to all of us. The lifestyle impacts of 24-hour stores, TV and internet, caffeine, and constantly available screens can disrupt a necessary biological function in each of us, as can medications, stress, life experiences, and other health conditions. Menopause and changing biology affect our sleep patterns as we age.

The good news is that there are effective interventions for sleep issues, and awareness of sleep as something worth addressing is the first place to start. As research continues to grow on the intersection of sleep, mental health, and suicide, we are hopeful that better understanding of the functions of this mind-body connection will increase treatment of sleep concerns and reveal additional tools for suicide prevention.

From another workshop attendee: “This breakout session has definitely stuck with me and encouraged a routine change in my own sleeping habits.”

Now, while sheltering at home, this might be an ideal time to consider the things that might be interfering with sleep in your life, and start a practice of good sleep habits to test out how sleep affects your cognition and mood.