Childhood Abuse as a Risk Factor for Sleep Problems in Adulthood: Evidence from a U.S. National Study

  • Emily A. Greenfield
  • Chioun Lee
  • Elliot L. Friedman
  • Kristen W. Springer
Original Article



Accumulating evidence indicates that stress impairs sleep quality. Few studies, however, have examined the extent to which early life stress can jeopardize sleep in adulthood.


Guided by a life course epidemiological perspective on health, this study examined associations between childhood abuse and adult sleep problems.


We used data from 835 respondents in the National Survey of Midlife Development in the United States (MIDUS). Self-report measures assessed the frequency of physical, emotional, and sexual abuse in childhood, as well as global and component indicators of sleep problems in adulthood.


Having experienced all three types of childhood abuse—even infrequently—was associated with global sleep pathology, as well as specific types of sleep problems. Reports of both frequent physical and frequent emotional abuse—even in the absence of sexual abuse—were also associated with poor sleep.


Childhood abuse is a risk factor for individuals’ long-term sleep problems.


Adverse childhood experiences Sleep Child abuse Stress Life course 

Supplementary material

12160_2011_9285_MOESM1_ESM.doc (35 kb)
ESM 1(DOC 35 kb)


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Copyright information

© The Society of Behavioral Medicine 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Emily A. Greenfield
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chioun Lee
    • 2
    • 3
  • Elliot L. Friedman
    • 4
  • Kristen W. Springer
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Social WorkRutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  2. 2.Institute for Health, Health Care Policy, and Aging ResearchRutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  3. 3.Department of SociologyRutgers, The State University of New JerseyNew BrunswickUSA
  4. 4.Institute on AgingUniversity of Wisconsin–MadisonMadisonUSA

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