Consequences of Violence Across the Lifespan: Mental Health and Sleep Quality in Pregnant Women

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Abstract

Objective: Research has demonstrated that exposure to violence and adversity has negative effects on both mental health and biobehavioral outcomes, such as sleep health. Research examining the relationship between past and recent violence exposure and mental health suggests that the effects of childhood adversity are especially pernicious, but to date, no studies have attempted to disentangle the direct, indirect and relative effects of past year versus childhood exposure to violence and adversity on sleep. The objective of the current study was to examine the direct effects of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and past year intimate partner violence (IPV) on different aspects of sleep health in pregnant women. Method: A sample of high-risk pregnant women (n = 101) were interviewed. Mediation analysis with bias-corrected, bootstrapped confidence intervals was used to evaluate direct and indirect effects. Results: Findings indicated that while ACEs had significant direct effects on mental health, past year IPV had stronger effects on sleep quality, latency, and efficiency. ACEs did, however, indirectly affect subjective sleep quality via past year psychological IPV. Conclusion: These findings suggest that sleep disturbance may be a regulatory stress response that is most clearly linked to past year violence and trauma. That is, though long-term sleep disturbance may be evident following childhood adversity, it is likely that this relationship is better explained by the role of childhood adversity in predicting adulthood revictimization or due to long-term mental health difficulties associated with early trauma.

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