Links Between Alcohol, Insomnia and Suicide Risk Explored

Michael Nadorff, PhD, Assistant professor Mississippi State University Starkville, Interview with:
Michael Nadorff, PhD, Assistant professor
Mississippi State University
Starkville, Miss.

Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Dr. Nadorff: A growing literature has found that insomnia symptoms are associated with suicidal behavior, and several studies suggest that this relation may be independent of several different forms of psychopathology.  However, little research has examined the role sleep disorders, such as insomnia, play in explaining why known risk factors, such as alcohol use, are associated with suicidal behavior.  In our study, we examined whether insomnia symptoms explained a significant portion of the relation between alcohol symptoms and suicide risk.  We found that for both men and women insomnia symptoms explained a significant amount of the variance in the relation between alcohol use and suicide risk.

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Nadorff: Although our study is preliminary, based upon these findings and the broader literature patients and clinicians should consider insomnia as an additional warning sign of potential suicidal behavior, not just a symptom of other warning sings such as depression or alcohol use.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Nadorff: Longitudinal studies examining these relations, as well as samples that examine these relations in a clinical sample, would both greatly add to the literature.  Additionally, intervention studies that examine the additive effect of insomnia treatment to treatment as usual for suicidal behavior is warranted.  There is a study like this underway, Dr. Vaughn McCall’s REST-IT study, which holds great potential for improving the way we treat suicidal individuals.


Michael R. Nadorff, Taban Salem, E. Samuel Winer, Dorian A. Lamis, Sarra Nazem, Mitchell E. Berman. Explaining Alcohol Use and Suicide Risk: A Moderated Mediation Model Involving Insomnia Symptoms and Gender. Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, 2014; DOI: 10.5664/jcsm.4288



Last Updated on December 23, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD