Contribution of post-trauma insomnia to depression and posttraumatic stress disorder in women service members: findings from the Millennium Cohort Study

Sleep. 2023 Mar 9;46(3):zsac313. doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsac313.


Study objectives: We examined whether women service members and veterans who reported recent combat and/or sexual trauma experiences had a greater risk of insomnia compared with women who did not report these recent experiences, and whether insomnia would be associated with a greater risk of mental health outcomes.

Methods: We analyzed two waves of survey data (2011-2013, Time 1 [T1] and 2014-2016, Time 2 [T2]) from 26 443 current and former women service members from the Millennium Cohort Study. We assessed recent traumas in the past 3 years, and probable insomnia at T1 and probable post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression at T2. A longitudinal mediation model was used to quantify separate indirect effects of recent traumas on mental health outcomes through probable insomnia.

Results: Women who had experienced recent sexual assault (odds ratio [OR] = 1.68; 95% CI = 1.24-2.10), sexual harassment (OR = 1.22; 95% CI = 1.05-1.41), and combat (OR = 1.34; 95% CI = 1.20-1.49) at T1 had a greater risk of probable insomnia at T1 compared with women who had not recently experienced these events. Probable insomnia at T1, in turn, was associated with probable depression (OR = 2.66; 95% CI = 2.31-3.06) and PTSD (OR = 2.57; 95% CI = 2.27-2.90) at T2. Recent combat experience did not moderate the associations of recent sexual trauma with insomnia or mental health outcomes.

Conclusions: Insomnia contributes to the risk of subsequent mental health conditions following trauma. The diagnosis and treatment of post-trauma insomnia should be prioritized to mitigate the development of posttraumatic mental health conditions.

Keywords: PTSD; depression; insomnia; military; service members; sexual assault; sexual harassment; veterans; women’s health.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cohort Studies
  • Depression / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Military Personnel* / psychology
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders* / complications
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders* / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / complications
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology
  • Veterans* / psychology