Emotional Abuse in Childhood May Disrupt Sleep Decades Later

Older adults who were insulted, intimidated by parents at risk for sleep problems, study finds

FRIDAY, June 10 (HealthDay News) -- Emotional abuse in childhood can lead to sleep disruption in old age, a new study finds.

In analyzing nearly 900 adults ageD 60 and older, researchers found that seniors who were emotionally abused by their parents decades earlier were at greater risk for poor sleep quality years later.

"A negative early attachment continues to exert an influence on our well-being decades later through an accumulation of stressful interpersonal experiences across our lives," study author Cecilia Y. M. Poon, said in a news release from the Gerontological Society of America. "The impact of abuse stays in the system. Emotional trauma may limit a person's ability to fend for themselves emotionally and successfully navigate the social world."

The study included 877 adults who answered questions about their childhood in a 1995 midlife development survey. A decade later, these participants were re-questioned about their relationships, emotional distress and quality of sleep, including how often within the past month they had trouble falling or remaining asleep or felt tired regardless of how much sleep they got.

Researchers found those who endured early emotional abuse (not physical abuse or emotional neglect) by their parents reported a higher number of problems sleeping in old age.

Emotional abuse included insults, swearing, silent treatment, intimidation, or threats of violence or physical abuse.

The study, published in the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences, pointed out that emotional abuse during childhood also took a toll on adult relationships.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides more information on the emotional abuse of children.

Mary Elizabeth Dallas SOURCE: Gerontological Society of America, news release, June 8, 2011

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