A new study suggests that the targeted assessment and treatment of specific sleep problems may reduce the risk of suicide among those who use alcohol. The study reveals that insomnia symptoms mediate the relationship between alcohol use and suicide risk, and this mediation is moderated by gender, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM).

The study involved 375 undergraduate students at a public university in the southeastern United States. Students completed an online questionnaire that examined nightmares, alcohol use, suicide risk, and insomnia symptoms.

According to an AASM news release, the study found that alcohol use was significantly associated with suicide risk among women, though further analysis revealed that insomnia symptoms explained a considerable proportion of the relationship between suicide risk and alcohol. The results of the study also showed that for men, there was no direct effect of alcohol use on suicide risk; however, there was a significant indirect effect of alcohol use increasing suicide risk through insomnia symptoms.

The AASM news release indicates that even though the design of the study did not allow for an examination of causality, the study lays the groundwork for future longitudinal investigations that further elucidate the relationship among alcohol use, insomnia symptoms, and suicide risk.

Michael Nadorff, PhD, states, “These results are important as they help demonstrate that alcohol use is associated with an increase in suicide risk, and that this increase may be partially due to insomnia symptoms. By better understanding this relationship, and the mechanisms associated with increased risk, we can better design interventions to reduce suicide risk.”

Source: AASM