Nightmares and Suicidal Feelings: Is There a Link?

Nearly everyone can recall an experience—or a handful of them—with nightmares, memories of crawling into their parents’ bed or strolling down the hall for a refreshing glass of water after a particularly harrowing dream being one of the elements that serves to unite childhoods across the country and around the world. Nightmares don’t subside for plenty of people, however, and some experience more disturbing dreams than others. For some people, particularly those struggling with concerns in their personal, social, and professional lives, nightmares can be debilitating. Recently, this issue has made it to the forefront of the mental health industry for its implication in the risk of suicide.

Though other symptoms such as depression are more commonly associated with suicide, the prevalence of nightmares in suicidal thoughts and behaviors has been a growing subject of interest for mental health professionals. While most people experience occasional bad dreams, chronic sufferers of nightmares may be internalizing their pain or engaging in other thoughts or activities that don’t serve their overall well-being. A recent study led by a psychology doctoral candidate at Florida State University has investigated the link between nightmares and suicide, finding that the unpleasant and terrifying dreams are significantly and independently associated with suicidal symptoms.

The research calls for greater development of therapies involving the acquisition of quality, relaxing sleep, and points out that people can overcome nightmares and other issues associated with rest to achieve a better quality of life while awake. The study, which is likely to spawn new inquiries into the links between sleep, mood, and behavior, was presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.


© Copyright 2009 by By John Smith, therapist in Bellingham, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to

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  • Sally


    September 15th, 2009 at 10:15 AM

    Wow. I always thought of nightmares as something that we all occasionally had from time to time but not something that one would have to deal with on a daily basis. It is sad that for some people there is no rest for them while either asleep or awake as they are internalizing all that plagues them and having to struggle with these internal demons at night.

  • Mcman


    September 15th, 2009 at 10:21 AM

    Some people experience same or similar nightmares consistently, sometimes even every night… this can be very damaging to the mental health of any person… for some individuals who do give up easily, it may push them to the extreme step of suicide… although such cases may be low and few in number, its existence cannot be ruled out.

    People who experience such constant nightmares should consult a psychologist immediately to seek help and get out of the ‘nightmare’

  • Kelli


    September 16th, 2009 at 12:31 PM

    I never realized how much of an impact that good sleep has on you until reading this.

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