Effects of childhood trauma on sleep quality and stress-related variables in adulthood: evidence from two multilevel studies

Daryl B. O’Connor*, Dawn Branley-Bell, Jessica A. Green, Eamonn Ferguson, Ronan E. O’Carroll, Rory C. O’Connor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

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Childhood trauma has been found to have serious negative consequences for mental and physical health. However, the precise mechanisms through which trauma influences health outcomes are unclear. Childhood trauma-related disruptions to sleep in adulthood represent an important potential mechanism. Two 7-day multilevel studies investigated the effects of childhood trauma on daily sleep outcomes and stress-related variables and whether the effects of trauma on sleep outcomes were mediated through these stress-related variables (or vice versa). Participants completed the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire before a 7-day online daily diary study. Measures of daily stress, perseverative cognition, and sleep were completed daily. Multi-level modelling found that higher levels of childhood neglect were associated with poorer daily sleep quality, shorter sleep duration, longer sleep onset latency, and higher daily stress and rumination levels. Higher childhood abuse was associated with shorter sleep duration, greater morning tiredness, and higher levels of daily stress, rumination, and worry. Childhood trauma was found also to have bidirectional, indirect effects on sleep quality and morning tiredness through daily stress-related variables. The current findings suggest that interventions aimed at mitigating the negative effects of childhood trauma should also incorporate components that target modifiable risk factors, such as sleep, stress, worry, and rumination.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-22
Number of pages22
JournalPsychology & Health
Early online date17 Nov 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Nov 2023

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