Geriatric researchers have discovered that events that took place long ago can disrupt sleep quality among older adults.
Suffering from parental abuse as a child increases a person’s chances of having poor sleep quality in old age, according to a research article in the current issue of the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences.
Scientists analyzed information from a sample of 877 adults aged 60 years and above and found that early parental emotional abuse was associated with a higher number of sleep complaints in old age.
Researchers determined that emotional abuse in childhood — rather than physical abuse or emotional neglect — is linked to a poor quality of sleep among older adults.
“A negative early attachment continues to exert an influence on our well-being decades later through an accumulation of stressful interpersonal experiences across our lives,” said Cecilia Y. M. Poon, M.A., the study’s lead author.
“The impact of abuse stays in the system. Emotional trauma may limit a person’s ability to fend for themselves emotionally and successfully navigate the social world.”
Researchers evaluated findings from the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States. In 1995, approximately 3,500 adults responded to questions about their childhood. A decade later, they were asked follow-up questions about sleep, relationships, and emotional distress.
In the research, Poon analyzed the answers from those aged 60 and above.
During the second round of interviews, the participants were asked how often within the previous 30 days they had trouble falling asleep, woke up during the night and had difficulty going back to sleep, woke up too early in the morning and were unable to get back to sleep, and felt unrested during the day no matter how many hours of sleep they had.
Emotional abuse was assessed by asking participants how often their mother and father insulted or swore at them, sulked or refused to talk to them, stomped out of the room, did or said something to spite them, threatened to hit them, or smashed or knocked something in anger.
Survey findings suggest emotional abuse during childhood is also associated with poorer relationships in adulthood. Poon speculated that this lack of partner support, associated with stress, may also impede sleep quality.