Teenagers who thought about suicide or attempted suicide were found to have more sleep problems. A recent study reported that sixty percent of teens 15 to 17 who engaged in suicidal behavior reported sleep problems at ages 12 to 14. Forty-seven percent of teens who had suicidal thoughts but did not engage in suicidal behavior reported sleep problems. Control teens had a 26% rate of sleep problems.
Teenage suicide is a tragic situation which seems to happen all too often. There are a number of great resources and places for support in preventing this from happening. However, sleep problems are almost never mentioned as a possible aggravator of suicidal ideation. This study didn’t get into the type of sleep problems, but insomnia and lack of sleep are two of the most common problems that teens have. Delayed sleep phase syndrome is another common phenomenon seen mostly in teens.
What I’ve alluded to in the past is that teens, due to their rapidly changing upper airway anatomy, will be more susceptible to breathing problems at night. As the voice box matures and drops lower in the neck, more space is created which allow the tongue to fall back easier when in deep sleep (due to muscle relaxation). This relative change in the anatomy may be one possible reason why depression begins to peak in the late teens to early adult years.
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