Variables associated with reductions in insomnia severity among acutely suicidal patients receiving brief cognitive behavioral therapy for suicide prevention


Introduction: This study compared changes in sleep disturbance over time across brief cognitive behavioral therapy for suicide prevention and treatment as usual and examined the mechanisms that link sleep disturbance with several suicide risk factors. Method: Active duty U.S. Army soldiers (N = 152) completed a randomized controlled trial to test the efficacy of brief cognitive behavioral therapy (n = 76) or treatment as usual (n = 76). Six assessments of insomnia symptoms, hopelessness, coping, and suicide beliefs were tracked over 24 months. Results: Brief cognitive behavioral therapy patients reported a significant decrease in sleep disturbance symptoms over time while treatment as usual patients did not. These improvements were initially observed during treatment and carried over through 12-months. Changes in sleep disturbance predicted changes in suicide risk. Longitudinal growth modeling was used to assess potential mechanisms of this effect. Results suggested that changes in cognitive flexibility, as defined by measures of hopelessness and suicide beliefs, predicted change in sleep disturbance symptoms. These relationships did not differ across treatment groups. Limitations: The participants were active duty military personnel. Therefore, the results may not generalize to other patient populations. A greater number of assessment periods in closer proximity as well as additional measures of constructs of interest would have improved the internal validity of this study. Conclusions: Brief cognitive behavioral therapy significantly reduces sleep disturbance and suicide risk. Changes in cognitive flexibility, in part, explain change in sleep disturbance across both treatments.

Publication Title

Journal of Affective Disorders