Sleep is a reliable correlate of suicidal thoughts and behaviors (STBs), yet few studies have directly examined negative affect in the context of this association. The present study combined daily experience methods with a laboratory paradigm to investigate suicide cognitions as a predictor of emotional responses to environmental stressors, and tested the role of nightly sleep parameters.
72 participants (Mage = 24.25; 41 with a recent history of suicide ideation and 31 without a history of STBs) completed a four-day study. Suicide cognitions were measured on the first day, and actigraphy-based sleep duration and fragmentation, and morning ratings of prior night subjective sleep quality (SSQ) were subsequently measured over three consecutive nights. Participants returned on the fourth day to complete the Trier Social Stress Task, where self-report changes in negative affect immediately post-task (i.e., reactivity) and five minutes post-task (i.e., recovery) were observed.
Regression analyses indicated that suicide cognitions predicted negative affect reactivity and recovery. Simple mediation analyses revealed that SSQ partially mediated the relation between suicide cognitions and negative affect recovery (especially shame), but not reactivity. No significant associations were observed for the actigraphy-based sleep parameters.
Just three nights of actigraphy-based data collection. A single item was used to measure SSQ.
Suicide cognitions predict negative affective responses to situational stressors and SSQ may have a key role in this effect, especially the duration of negative emotional reactions. Hence, sleep and emotional reactivity may be potential targets for suicide prevention efforts.