Nightmares, Suicidal Tendencies Linked
The research, conducted by Nisse Sjöström and colleagues of Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Göteborg, Sweden, focused on 165 patients aged 18 to 68, who came to the hospital after suicide attempts.
The scientists found that 89 percent of subjects reported some sleep disturbance. The most common: difficulties falling asleep (73 percent), staying asleep (69 percent), nightmares (66 percent) and early morning awakening (58 percent).
Nightmares were found to be associated with a five-fold increase in risk for high suicidality. This doesn’t imply that nightmares cause suicide, said Sjöström.
Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh (1889), an image of nocturnal turbulence. The painter, who complained of nightmares, killed himself the year after completing this work.
But “our findings should inspire clinicians to include questions concerning sleep disturbance and especially nightmares in the clinical assessment of suicidal patients.”
Nightmares are common and can begin at any age. Between 50 and 85 percent of adults report having a nightmare at least on occasion, the researchers said, though these troubling dreams tend to become less frequent and intense with age.
Teen and adult women report nightmares more often than teen and adult men, added Sjöström and colleagues.
Excessively frequent nightmares may amount to “nightmare disorder,” the researchers added; this affects about two to eight percent of people at any given time, and may have a genetic component and also be caused by some medications. Anyone afflicted by frequent, disruptive nightmares should see a sleep specialist, according to Sjöström’s team.
The study appeared in the Jan. 1 issue of the research journal Sleep.