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PLoS One. 2013;8(2):e56156. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0056156. Epub 2013 Feb 14.

Sleeping patterns of Afghan unaccompanied asylum-seeking adolescents: a large observational study.

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  • 1Centre for Evidence Based Intervention, Department of Social Policy and Intervention, University of Oxford, Oxford, United Kingdom.


Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) have experienced multiple traumas and are a high-risk group for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The effects of trauma are known to be associated with sleep problems; indeed sleeping problems are core features of PTSD. However, there has been no systematic research examining the sleep of this high risk group of children. This study presents the first evidence on the sleeping patterns of Afghan UASC living in the UK. A total of 222 male Afghan children, aged 13-18, were interviewed using validated self-report questionnaires measuring sleeping patterns and PTSD. Overall, UASC patterns for bed time and rise time appear acculturated to the country of asylum. Mean UASC sleep onset latency scores were approximately 20 minutes greater compared with normative scores, which may be a reflection of UASC pre-migration and post-migration experiences. As expected, UASC who screened above the clinical cut-off for PTSD reported significantly greater sleep onset latency, increased nightmares, and less total sleep time compared to the non-PTSD group. The results may be of particular interest to clinicians given that, compared to screening for PTSD, screening for sleep problems may be a less culturally disputed form of initial assessment indicating distress in UASC. Similarly, the field of UASC and refugee child interventions is largely focused on trauma, yet sleep may provide a novel avenue for equally or more effective treatment.

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