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Sleep Med. 2011 Sep;12(8):773-9. doi: 10.1016/j.sleep.2011.03.013. Epub 2011 Jun 24.

Adverse childhood experiences and sleep disturbances in adults.

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  • 1Division of Adult and Community Health, National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30341, United States. DChapman@cdc.gov



Sleep disturbances are associated with an increased risk for many chronic diseases and unhealthy behaviors. A history of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) is also associated with similar adult health outcomes. We studied the relationship between multiple ACEs and the likelihood of experiencing self-reported sleep disturbances in adulthood.


We used data from the adverse childhood experiences (ACE) study, a retrospective cohort study of 17,337 adult health maintenance organization members in California who completed a survey about eight ACEs, which included childhood abuse and growing up with various forms of household dysfunction. The self-reported sleep disturbances measured included ever having trouble falling or staying asleep and feeling tired after a good night's sleep. We used an integer count of the number of ACEs (the ACE score) to assess the cumulative impact of these experiences on the likelihood of self-reported sleep disturbances.


Thirty-three percent of the cohort reported trouble falling or staying asleep, while 24% reported feeling tired after sleeping. All eight ACE categories were associated with an increased likelihood of self-reported sleep disturbances (p<0.05). Compared to persons with an ACE score of 0, those with an ACE score ≥ 5 were 2.1 (95% CI: 1.8-2.4) times more likely to report trouble falling or staying asleep and 2.0 (95% CI: 1.7-2.3) times more likely to report feeling tired even after a good night's sleep. The trend for increasing odds for both types of self-reported sleep disturbance with increasing ACE scores was statistically significant (p<0.0001).


Adverse childhood experiences were associated with self-reported sleep disturbances in adulthood, and the ACE score had a graded relationship to these sleep disturbances. A history of ACEs should be obtained for patients with self-reported sleep disturbances to coordinate services that ameliorate the long-term effects of these events.

Published by Elsevier B.V.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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