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Severe Nightmares May Warn of Suicidal Symptoms

Treating sleep problems could aid suicide prevention, researchers suggest

TUESDAY, June 9 (HealthDay News) -- Besides disturbing a good night's sleep, nightmares might be linked to an increased risk of suicide, a new study suggests.

Researchers assessed 82 men and women, ages 18 to 66, who were awaiting an emergency psychiatric evaluation before being admitted to a community mental health hospital. They were asked about their nightmares, insomnia, depression and suicidal tendencies.

The study found that severe nightmares were independently associated with increased suicidal symptoms, even after the researchers accounted for the effects of depression.

"Sleep disturbances, especially nightmares, appear to be an acute warning sign and risk factor for suicide," principal investigator Rebecca Bernert, a doctoral candidate in clinical psychology at Florida State University, said in a news release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine.

"Given that poor sleep is amenable to treatment, and less stigmatized than depression and suicide, our findings could impact standardized suicide risk assessment and prevention efforts," she said.

The findings were to be presented June 9 in Seattle at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.

Sleep complaints are among the top 10 warning signs of suicide, according to the U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

More information

The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about nightmares.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: American Academy of Sleep Medicine, news release, June 9, 2009

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