Childhood emotional abuse linked to sleep problems in seniors, study shows

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Individuals who endured emotional abuse by their parents as children are more likely to have sleep difficulties in old age, a new study finds.

In 1995, researchers surveyed 3,500 adults with questions about their childhood for the National Survey of Midlife Development. Ten years later researchers asked the same group questions about sleep, relationships and emotional distress. The researchers focused on responses from adults aged 60 and older, a total of 877 people.

An analysis of this group revealed that early parental abuse was linked to higher numbers of sleep difficulties in old age. Researchers noticed sleep problems were associated specifically with emotional rather than physical abuse. Sleep complaints included difficulty falling asleep, staying asleep, waking up too early or inability to feel refreshed after sleep. For the purposes of this study, researchers said emotional abuse could include a parent swearing at a child, ignoring a child, stomping out of a room, sulking, or knocking over or smashing objects.
 
 “The impact of abuse stays in the system,” said study author Cecilia Y. M. Poon, a doctoral student at University of Southern California's Davis School of Gerontology. “Emotional trauma may limit a person's ability to fend for themselves emotionally and successfully navigate the social world.”
 
The study was published in May issue of the Journals of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences.

 
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