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Suicide Risk Peaks Between Midnight and 4AM

Update Date: Jun 03, 2014 09:25 AM EDT

Suicide prevention can be a very difficult task. Many people suffering from depression and have suicidal ideations do not often tell others about their mental health status, which prevents them from receiving any kind of care. However, in order to attempt to stop suicides before they happen, researchers have been studying certain trends. In a new study, the team found that suicide risk peaks after midnight.

"This appears to be the first data to suggest that circadian factors may contribute to suicidality and help explain why insomnia is also a risk factor for suicidal ideation and behavior," the study's lead investigator, Michael Perlis, PhD., associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Director of the Penn Behavior Sleep Medicine Program at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, said according to CBS Atlanta. "These results suggest that not only are nightmares and insomnia significant risk factors for suicidal ideation and behavior, but just being awake at night may in and of itself be a risk factor for suicide."

For this study, Perlis and colleagues examined data gathered by the National Violent Death Reporting System and the American Time Use Survey. The first source provided the researchers with an estimated time of death and the second contained information about the number of people who were awake each hour. Overall, the researcher counted a total of 35,332 suicides. They categorized the suicides into one-hour sections and compared the total number of self-inflicted deaths that occurred to the proportion of people who were awake per hour.

The team calculated that the suicide rate per hour after midnight was 10.27 percent. This rate spiked to 16.27 percent from two to three in the morning. The suicide rate per hour from six in the morning to midnight was just 2.13 percent. When the researchers divided the time into six-hour blocks, they found that from midnight to six, the suicide rate was 3.6 times higher than predicted. The researchers stated that treating insomnia could potentially reduce the rate of suicide.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) lists suicide as the 10th leading cause of death within the nation. Over 38,000 deaths are caused by suicide each year. The abstract of the study, "When Accounting for Wakefulness, Completed Suicides Exhibit an Increased Likelihood during Circadian Night," was published in an online section of the journal, Sleep. The findings are set to be presented at SLEEP 2014, which is the 28th yearly meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies LLC, taking place in Minneapolis, MN.

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