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Sleep and Suicide in Older Adults: An Opportunity for Intervention

  • Todd M. Bishop
    Correspondence
    Address correspondence to: Todd M. Bishop, PhD, 400 Fort Hill Avenue, Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention, Canandaigua, NY 14424.
    Affiliations
    VISN 2 Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention, Canandaigua VA Medical Center, Canandaigua, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
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  • Kelsey V. Simons
    Affiliations
    VISN 2 Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention, Canandaigua VA Medical Center, Canandaigua, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
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  • Deborah A. King
    Affiliations
    VISN 2 Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention, Canandaigua VA Medical Center, Canandaigua, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
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  • Wilfred R. Pigeon
    Affiliations
    VISN 2 Center of Excellence for Suicide Prevention, Canandaigua VA Medical Center, Canandaigua, New York

    Department of Psychiatry, University of Rochester Medical Center, Rochester, New York
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      Abstract

      Whether as a standalone disorder or as a symptom associated with existing pathology, the prevalence of sleep disturbance increases with age. Older adults also experience a myriad of risk factors for suicide, including depression, and have elevated rates of suicide. There is now significant evidence linking sleep disturbances to suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The use of pharmacologic means to treat insomnia (e.g., sedative hypnotics) is also commonplace among older cohorts and has been associated with suicide. Behavioral treatment of insomnia represents an efficacious alternative to pharmacotherapy among older adults, which while improving sleep, may concurrently reduce depressive symptomatology. Implications and clinical recommendations of the sleep–suicide relationship are discussed.

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