May 08, 2015
2 min read

Childhood maltreatment increases risk for disordered sleeping in adulthood

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Adults who experienced maltreatment during childhood were two times as likely to have trouble sleeping during adulthood vs. those who did not experience childhood maltreatment, according to study findings in Sleep Medicine.

Philip Baiden, a PhD student at the University of Toronto, and colleagues assessed data from Statistics Canada’s 2012 Canadian Community Health Survey-Mental Health (CCHS-MH) for 19,349 respondents aged 20 years or older. Study participants were asked to rate how often they have trouble sleeping or staying asleep and how often they experienced specific incidents of maltreatment during childhood.

Philip Baiden

Philip Baiden

Overall, 14.2% of study participants reported troubled sleep. Approximately half of the cohort experienced at least one type of maltreatment incident during childhood. The cohort reported being slapped in the face, hit or spanked by an adult (40.3%); 21.2% were pushed, grabbed or shoved; 10.2% were physically attacked (eg, kicked, bitten, punched, choked or burned). Sixteen percent of study participants witnessed domestic violence; 10% experienced unwanted sexual touching, kissing or fondling; and 6.1% experienced forced or attempted forced sexual activity.

Risk for troubled sleep increased by 10% for each type of childhood maltreatment experienced (OR = 1.1; 95% CI, 1.07-1.13) and for every increase in psychological distress scores (OR = 1.1; 95% CI, 1.09-1.12).

Older age, female sex, being a non-immigrant, being single/never married or previously married, lower income, having a chronic condition or a lifetime diagnosis of major depressive disorder or general anxiety disorder increased risk for sleep disorders.

Study participants who experienced only unwanted sexual touching, kissing or fondling had the greatest overall risk for troubled sleeping (OR = 2.87; 95% CI, 2.17-3.83).

Study participants who were only physically attacked were 2.45 times more likely to have troubled sleeping (95% CI, 1.46-4.1) and those who were only slapped, hit or spanked by an adult were 1.41 times more likely to have troubled sleeping (95% CI, 1.25-1.58).

Experiencing multiple types of maltreatment increased overall risk for troubled sleeping by 2.13 times (95% CI, 1.94-2.34).

“In summary, the results of this paper provide population-based evidence for childhood adversities as a major predictor of troubled sleep in adulthood. They highlight the importance of exploring sleep habits for children, adolescents and adults who have experienced childhood maltreatment in health and mental health settings,” Baiden and colleagues wrote. “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.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosures: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.