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Study explores whether sleeping pills reduce insomniac's suicidal thoughts
Date:1/22/2013

k therapy that targets faulty thinking such as, 'I will never sleep again,' said McCall, who also uses this approach.

Researchers have evidence that the intensity of insomnia correlates with the intensity of suicidal thoughts as well as a pilot study linking proactive hypnotic treatment to reduced suicidal thoughts. In fact, 31 studies have linked insomnia to suicidal thoughts, behavior or death. Still suicide risk factors and prevention often overlook insomnia, McCall said.

Acknowledging the very vulnerable population they study, there are numerous safeguards built into the research protocol such as participants only getting one week's supply of sleeping pills for the first two weeks, then getting a two-week supply if their suicidal thoughts stabilize. Additionally, they will be asked to take the drug shortly before going to bed and to allow eight hours for sleep.

Sleeping pills such as zolpidem accentuate the body's normal mechanism for sleep by targeting GABA, a neurotransmitter that essentially turns the brain's metabolism down, McCall said. Existing antidepressants don't affect GABA. Many over-the-counter sleep aids are essentially anti-histamines; histamine is another neurotransmitter that helps keep you awake. In insomniacs, GABA tends to be underactive while histamine works overtime.

Insomnia is a symptom and about half of all cases are related to a mental disorder such as depression. About 90 percent of patients hospitalized for depression and 60 percent of those treated as outpatients also have insomnia, McCall said. Not sleeping also can also be tied to personality, specifically hypervigilant individuals who are always "on." "They just can't relax," said McCall, who admits to at least a small case of that himself. Others have life-issues, such as divorce or illness, that can cause transient insomnia. In others, it's a long-standing problem with no obvious basis.

Patients with insomnia that persists over a
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Contact: Toni Baker
tbaker@gru.edu
706-721-4421
Georgia Health Sciences University
Source:Eurekalert  

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