Adverse childhood experiences and sleep difficulties among young adult college students

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Journal of Sleep Research

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Although adverse childhood experiences (traumatic events such as maltreatment and household dysfunction) are associated with increased risk for sleep difficulties among adults, the association between adverse childhood experiences and poor sleep health among young adult college populations is understudied. This study examined the adverse childhood experience–sleep health (self-reported sleep difficulty and diagnosis of insomnia or “other” sleep disorder) association among college students. Data are from the 2018/2019 American College Health Association-National College Health Assessment II (ACHA-NCHA-II) survey administered at public universities in California (n = 3606) and Texas (n = 407). Logistic regression models investigated the relative effect of adverse childhood experiences (maltreatment only, household dysfunction only, and maltreatment + household dysfunction) on three sleep health indicators. Approximately 40% of the sample reported adverse childhood experiences: 11% maltreatment only, 14% household dysfunction only, and 17% both. Compared with students with no adverse childhood experience history, students who reported only household dysfunction or only maltreatment had higher odds of experiencing sleep difficulty in the past year [adjusted odds ratios: 1.52–2.40; 95% confidence intervals: 1.26–2.97]. Additionally, students who reported maltreatment only had 2.47 times the odds of receiving an insomnia diagnosis [95% confidence interval: 1.52, 4.01]. However, students who reported both had higher odds of all three sleep health indicators: past-year sleep difficulty, insomnia diagnosis, and “other” sleep disorder diagnosis [adjusted odds ratios: 2.53–3.10; 95% confidence intervals: 1.51–4.66]. Sleep is an important facet of health among the college student population, and plays a crucial role in overall well-being, psychosocial processes, attention and academic success. Results point toward a need for sleep health programmes and interventions on college campuses focused on healthy sleep behaviours in order to mitigate further negative health effects.


child maltreatment, college students, household dysfunction, sleep health, young adults


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