The Impact of Childhood Sexual Abuse on Adult Sleep
The present study examined the role of childhood sexual abuse (CSA) in adult sleep. Specifically, it investigated why those with histories of CSA are more likely to have disrupted sleep by examining two possibilities. First, the present study explored whether sleep disturbances are due to a generic effect of trauma or if they are unique to CSA. Second, the present study also examined trauma experienced after childhood as a possible mediator of the relation between CSA and adult sleep quality, as those with histories of CSA are more likely to experience subsequent adult abuse/trauma. The present study is an improvement to the current literature in terms of measurement as it used not only more thorough measurement by use of several sleep questionnaires, but also better quality of measurement by using measures with psychometric data. Likewise, it is an improvement in terms of sample and methodology as it used a large, non-clinical, community sample and included comparisons to other forms of abuse/trauma. Participants recruited from Mechanical Turk (n = 403) completed measures regarding childhood abuse/trauma, post-childhood abuse/trauma, and sleep. As hypothesized, those who experienced CSA were found to have poorer overall sleep than non-abused peers; however, they were not significantly different from those who experienced physical abuse only or sexual and physical abuse. Post-childhood trauma was found to act as a full mediator of sleep duration and habitual sleep efficiency, and a partial mediator of overall poor sleep quality, subjective sleep quality, sleep disturbances, daytime dysfunction, disruptive nocturnal behaviours, sleep paralysis frequency, sleep apnea, insomnia, narcolepsy, RLS/PLMD, nightmares, nightmare frequency, factors influencing sleep, and impact of sleep complaints on daily functioning. In sum, these findings are largely consistent with prior theory, suggesting that adult sleep disturbances following CSA are due to a generic effect of trauma, and add to our understanding of why CSA is related to disrupted adult sleep by introducing post-childhood abuse or trauma as a mediating variable.