Adverse childhood experiences affect sleep duration for up to 50 years later

Sleep. 2019 Jul 8;42(7):zsz087. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsz087.


Study objectives: The main objective for this study was to assess the association of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and subsequent short sleep duration among adults.

Methods: This cross-sectional examination used data from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, a nationwide telephone-administered survey. Participants completed a standardized questionnaire to report childhood experiences of abuse, neglect, household challenges, and sleep time. Multinominal logistic regression analyses included survey weighting procedures and adjusted for age, race, education, income, sex, and body mass index; associations were also examined by age strata, using age as a proxy for time since ACEs occurred.

Results: Complete data were available for 22 403 adults (mean age = 46.66 years) including 14 587 (65%) with optimum sleep duration (7-9 h/night) and 2069 (9%) with short sleep duration (<6 h/night). Compared with adults with optimum sleep duration, the number of ACEs was associated with the odds of short sleep duration (odds ratio [OR] = 1.22, 95% CI = 1.16 to 1.28), and the odds increased as the number of ACEs increased. The association held for each decade of age until the 60s, although the magnitude attenuated. Mental health challenges or poor physical health did not account for the association.

Conclusion: ACEs increased the odds of chronic short sleep duration during adulthood and showed both a time-dependent and dose-response nature. These associations were independent of self-reported mental health challenges or poor physical health. The association of ACEs with short sleep duration throughout the adult lifespan emphasizes the importance of child health and identifying underlying psychological challenges in adults with sleep difficulties.

Keywords: ACEs; adverse childhood experiences; insomnia; risk factor; sleep; sleep disruption.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Adverse Childhood Experiences / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System
  • Body Mass Index
  • Child
  • Child Abuse / psychology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Family Characteristics
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Income
  • Male
  • Mental Health
  • Middle Aged
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / pathology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Young Adult