Examining components of emotion regulation in relation to sleep problems and suicide risk

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Journal of Affective Disorders





Sleep has emerged as an important factor in elevated risk for suicide and suicidal behaviors; however, the mechanisms accounting for this relationship are poorly understood. Emotion regulation is a well-established correlate of self-injurious behaviors; however, the broad construct has recently been shown to provide limited predictive utility. More nuanced investigations into the processes involved in emotion regulation may address this gap. This study sought to examine the mediating role of emotion regulation between sleep disturbances and suicide risk, as well as to evaluate a moderated mediation model in which down- and up-regulation of emotions would moderate this mediation.


Participants were 972 adults recruited from a crowdsourcing website (Amazon's Mechanical Turk) who completed self-report questionnaires regarding nightmares, suicide risk, and emotion regulation.


Emotion regulation mediated the direct effect of nightmares on suicide risk and suicide attempts. Downregulation of negative affect moderated the mediation of nightmares on suicide risk more clearly than upregulation of positive affect, and neither component of emotion regulation exhibited moderated mediation in the suicide attempt model.


Generalizability of our findings from an online community sample will need to be established with replication in other samples. Additionally, we used cross-sectional measures in our mediation models.


Downregulation of negative emotions may be particularly salient in relation to the severity of suicide risk and, as a result, relative deficits in this area should be considered when making risk determinations.