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Childhood trauma and gender: Synergistic and additive effects on sleep in healthy young adults

Published:August 11, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.sleh.2022.06.008

      Abstract

      Objectives

      To examine whether gender moderates the effects of childhood trauma on subjective and objective sleep measures.

      Design

      Secondary data analysis, exploratory

      Settings

      Sleep research lab

      Participants

      A total of 213 men and 278 women aged 18-30 completed subjective measures. A subsample of 172 participants without any psychiatric, medical, or sleep disorders completed objective polysomnography for 1 night at baseline, before sleep manipulation.

      Measurements

      Subjective measures: Childhood Trauma Questionnaire (CTQ), Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, Insomnia Severity Index, and Epworth Sleepiness Scale. Objective measures: Standard polysomnography measures. Multiple regressions determined whether gender moderated CTQ score on any objective or subjective sleep measures. If gender was not a moderator, we examined additive effects of gender and CTQ score. Models were adjusted for race and age.

      Results

      Gender and CTQ score interactions were non-significant for both subjective (p > .675) and objective (p > .110) sleep. Women demonstrated better subjective sleep quality (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, B = -0.264, p = .041) and more delta sleep than men (B = 3.032, p =.005). Greater CTQ score was associated with increased sleepiness (Epworth Sleepiness Scale, B = 0.029, p = .042), increased insomnia severity (Insomnia Severity Index, B = 0.027, p = .005), and lower REM density (B = -0.132, p = .045).

      Conclusion

      Our finding of greater delta sleep and better subjective overall sleep quality in women suggests that, among people without comorbidities, women may experience better sleep. Childhood trauma is associated with objective and subjective sleep measures, but this association is non-specific to gender. Clear links between childhood trauma and sleep are detectable in a sample of healthy sleepers with no comorbidities.

      Keywords

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