Background: The experience of childhood trauma is linked to more severe symptoms and poorer functioning in severe mental disorders; however, the mechanisms behind this are poorly understood. We investigate the relationship between childhood trauma and sleep disturbances in severe mental disorders including the role of sleep disturbances in mediating the relationship between childhood trauma and the severity of clinical symptoms and poorer functioning.
Methods: In total, 766 participants with schizophrenia-spectrum (n = 418) or bipolar disorders (n = 348) were assessed with the Childhood Trauma Questionnaire. Sleep disturbances were assessed through the sleep items in the self-reported Inventory of Depressive Symptoms. Clinical symptoms and functioning were assessed with The Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale and the Global Assessment of Functioning Scale. Mediation analyses using ordinary least squares regression were conducted to test if sleep disturbances mediated the relationship between childhood trauma and the severity of clinical symptoms and poorer functioning.
Results: Symptoms of insomnia, but not hypersomnia or delayed sleep phase, were significantly more frequent in participants with childhood trauma experiences compared to those without. Physical abuse, emotional abuse, and emotional neglect were significantly associated with insomnia symptoms. Insomnia symptoms partly mediate the relationship between childhood trauma and the severity of positive and depressive/anxiety symptoms, in addition to poorer functioning.
Conclusion: We found frequent co-occurrence of childhood trauma history and current insomnia in severe mental disorders. Insomnia partly mediated the relationship between childhood trauma and the severity of clinical symptoms and functional impairment.
Keywords: Bipolar disorders; childhood trauma; psychosis; schizophrenia; sleep disturbances.