Clinical Psychiatry by R. K. Singareddy and R. Balon. The article notes that serotonin plays an important role in initiating and maintaining both slow wave and REM sleep and that it has been found to be low in patients who either attempted or committed suicide.

Adolescents who took part in a sleep study in China gave proof of the association between sleep deprivation and suicidal tendencies. More than 19 percent of the 1,363 students interviewed said they had thought about suicide and more than 10 percent had actually attempted suicide in the previous six months. This is shocking enough, but what is even more shocking is that the average amount of sleep for these students was 7.6 hours a night, not five or six. The conclusion the study drew was that anything less than eight hours of nighttime sleep is associated with an increased risk of suicide.

Thoughts of suicide as well as depression are significant problems on college campuses. In a recent survey taken by the National College Health Assessment program, 61.5 percent of students “felt hopeless at least once per school year,” 44 percent “felt so depressed it was difficult to function,” and 9.5 percent “seriously considered suicide.” A 2002 study put the number of campus suicides at 1,088, and an earlier study showed that the suicide rate among young people had tripled between 1952 and 1997. While substance abuse, anxiety, and feelings of desperation increase the risk, mental illness, usually depression, is the cause of 95 percent of college suicides. Research by Roseanne Armitage at the University of Michigan found that increased sleep problems and increasing reports of depression on college campuses were definitely connected. An article in the Lehigh University student newspaper stated that the average amount of sleep students who were polled had gotten the night before was 5.8 hours.

To treat the major causes of depression and to prevent suicide, professional help is certainly needed. Parents, schools, community resources, and friends also can be important parts of the support system for clinically depressed or suicidal teens. As the above and other studies found, however, getting enough sleep may also reduce the risk of adolescent suicide.

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