Reducing Insomnia in Veterans Seems to Reduce Suicidal Feelings


A team of researchers working with the US Department of Veterans Affairs found that both insomnia and suicidal ideation were reduced among veterans who participated in up to six sessions of cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia.

Working with 405 participants, 32% were experiencing suicidal ideation at the beginning of the study compared to 21% at the end. There was no control group.

Published in the journal Sleep, one of the authors described the results as “eye-opening” in a press release from the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “In addition to improving insomnia and reducing suicidal thoughts, CBT-I led to improvements in depression and quality of life, which suggests that focusing greater attention on detecting and treating insomnia could produce substantial public health benefits,” stated the press release.

Trockel, Mickey, Bradley E. Karlin, C. Barr Taylor, Gregory K. Brown, and Rachel Manber. “Effects of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for Insomnia on Suicidal Ideation in Veterans.” SLEEP, February 1, 2015. doi:10.5665/sleep.4410. (Abstract)

Cognitive behavioral therapy for insomnia reduces suicidal thoughts in veterans (American Academy of Sleep Medicine press release on ScienceDaily, February 2, 2015)


  1. I am a firm believer in getting enough sleep and exercise. Eating right and proper diet are are a little more complicated. Thanks to psychiatry, my kidneys are low functioning, so I am told to go slow on salt and protein and I take high blood pressure medication. It seems that dietitians are down on complex carbohydrates these days, something I swore by when I was an endurance athlete and bicycle racer. It does seem to me that dietary guidelines are widely in flux. With everything else going on in my life, I’m just not going to worry too much about dairy protein and gluten in the wheat bread.

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    • To me the gluten thing sound mostly like a fad. Except for people who actually have coeliac disease everyone else should be just fine eating wheat – humanity has done that for thousands of years.
      About the insomia: it seems like a recurring pattern in many “mental illnesses” that they start with major traumatic or stressful events leading up to sleeping problems. I’m sure that improving sleep is a good way to approach the issues but not with sleeping pills – they don’t really give you a normal sleep pattern.

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      • B,

        I have to respectfully disagree with you about gluten just being a fad. For many people, even though they don’t have celiac disease, cutting it out does make a big difference in their health. I just think that if we don’t want people to minimize our experiences, we have to be careful we don’t do it to other groups of people.

        Regarding improving sleep, CBTI seems to be the preferred non drug choice for insomnia. Even though it allegedly is the gold standard non drug approach, I am still skeptical that it is a one size fits all type of treatment and that it is thrown at people without investigating underlying issues.

        Agree with you about sleeping pills with this one exception. If someone feels extremely suicidal from severe insomnia, better to take something like on a PRN basis vs. ending up dead or in a psych hospital on a “million” drugs.

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    • I went low on all sugar and carbohydrates and higher with fat consumption originally as an effort to drop those 25 kg I gained with neuroleptic drug. It worked very well in that sense, I dropped those 25 kg in a year. However, another think I noticed in that process was that the kind of diet I was on gave me much more constant clarity in thought. I no longer needed sugar based snacks at work to give me energy, I had more constant and stable energy throughout the day, etc. I therefore keep eating this type of diet even after I lost that weight. However, I’m not overly promoting what I’m doing to other people. People have different types of bodies and situations, for instance, so I’m not telling everyone to follow what I did. I can just add one anecdote.

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      • To elaborate further, I think when I switched to a quite low carb and higher on fat diet, my metabolism changed, and as a result things such as mental fogginess during the day, the thing I was often medicating myself on with legal or mental drugs, pretty much disappeared. My mental world changed quite drastically after that change in my diet. I can now keep a pretty constant focus throughout the day at work, and after work, with generally just two meals in a day, no snacks between.

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        • Hi Hermes,

          I am so happy you have found what works for you. How has this diet effected your sleep?

          The reason I am asking is when I go too low carb, when I wake up prematurely, many times, I am starving. I don’t think that is the total reason for my sleep issues but it is something I have to be aware of.

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          • Currently I sleep 7-8 hours at a night and get up quite easily. There have been also many confounding factors, such as me getting off drugs, etc. But in any way, I think my body in a way got adapted to this type of diet, where I would take a very low amount of carbs, such as 20-30 mg in a day, over weeks. The body changed its metabolism, and after the adaptation phase, my body lost the hunger, so I can easily go over long periods without any hunger or cravings for food at all.

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    • Also, in what I take as quite a great success in both losing weight and getting back mental focus, I think the most important issue was to reduce carbohydrates to minimum and increase fat intake. It may sound even paradoxical given the current dietary guidelines, but it worked for me at least. If you change your diet like that, your body, including your brain, transforms to using more of the ketone bodies made of fat for energy, instead of glucose. This shift can also produce different type of mental experience. Very low carb diets have been successfully used to treat epileptic patients, for instance.

      Of course, when I was reducing carbs, I also reduced my gluten intake at the same time, so I don’t know if gluten was causing some of my issues. But I’m skeptical about it being gluten in any meaningful way, in my case.

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