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

Published:August 11, 2022DOI:



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


      Secondary data analysis, exploratory


      Sleep research lab


      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.


      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.


      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).


      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.


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