Investigators at Canada’s University of Toronto, University of Ottawa and Western University have reported finding a link between childhood adversity and later sleep disorders in the online edition of the journal Sleep Medicine.
In the study, childhood adversity was defined by multiple episodes of witnessing domestic violence; being slapped in the face, hit or spanked; pushed, grabbed, or shoved; kicked, bitten, punched, choked, or burned; forced or attempted forced sexual activity; or unwanted sexual touching, kissing, or fondling.
“We found a significant association between childhood maltreatment and difficulty sleeping later in life,” said lead author Philip Baiden, a Ph.D. student at University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
“Initially, we thought that the link would be explained by factors such as chronic conditions, chronic pain, and mental health problems — factors which the extant literature has found to be associated with trouble sleeping — but even after adjusting for 15 potential explanatory factors, we found that each additional type of childhood maltreatment experienced increased the odds of having trouble sleeping later in life by 10 percent.”
Past studies have “consistently found that early childhood adversities such as emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, and neglect are risk factors for poor physical and mental health later in life, our study suggests that these early childhood adversities are also related to trouble sleeping later in life.”
Co-author Barbara Fallon, Ph.D., an associate professor at University of Toronto, also noted that “identifying sleep problems early and making appropriate referrals may help reduce the long-term effects of these adverse experiences on sleep, particularly for those who experienced sexual, physical, or multiple types of childhood maltreatment.”
In the study, researchers evaluated data from a representative sample of 19,349 adults from Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health.
Investigators discovered about one in seven individuals had trouble sleeping, and about one in two individuals experienced at least one childhood adversity before they turned age 16.