New research showing how real-life exposure to violence disrupts a child's sleep habits

June 13, 2012, American Academy of Sleep Medicine

When violence shatters a child's world, the torment can continue into their sleep, according to researchers in Cleveland. The impact is measurable and affected by the severity of the violence, and the effects can last over time.

The study, being presented today at SLEEP 2012, shows how the severity of a violent event affects a child's quality and quantity of sleep. The more severe the violence, the more sleep is impacted. Trouble with and have long been associated with exposure to violence, but the Cleveland study found that characteristics of the violent act touch different aspects of the child's sleep.

For example, children who are victimized during a violent event tend to sleep less and more poorly than children who witnessed a violent event but were not victimized. Children who witness have more inconsistent sleep as time passes since the violent event occurred.

"Violence permeates our society, and this work is showing that experiencing even a single violent event as a victim or as a witness may influence sleep behavior in different ways, which in turn may negatively affect a child's health and functioning," said James Spilsbury, PhD, the study's principal investigator.

Children who do not get enough sleep are prone to development and . Poor sleep also has been linked to a number of serious , including , , stroke, depression, diabetes, obesity and accidents.

Spilsbury and colleagues at Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Clinic Multidisciplinary Research Training Program measured the sleep of 46 children, ages 8 to 16, who were participating in a social service program for children exposed to violence. Ethnicity was mixed, but the children were largely disadvantaged and living in urban settings.

Sleep data were collected for seven days by actigraphy, a monitoring method that uses a patient-worn sensor to measure activity during the day and at night. Follow-up was conducted three months later. In analyzing the results, Spilsbury and associates controlled for such factors as age, sex, family income and exposure to violence in the previous year.

"Even after controlling for the possible effects of exposure to violence in the previous year, we saw that the severity of the more recent event had a measurable, negative influence on a child's quantity and quality of sleep," Spilsbury said.

Explore further: Parents' conflicts affect adopted infants' sleep

More information: The abstract "Association between exposure to violence and objectively measured sleep characteristics: a pilot longitudinal study" is being presented today at SLEEP 2012, the 26th annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston.

Related Stories

Parents' conflicts affect adopted infants' sleep

August 2, 2011
When parents fight, infants are likely to lose sleep, researchers report. "We know that marital problems have an impact on child functioning, and we know that sleep is a big problem for parents," said Jenae M. Neiderhiser, ...

Pediatric epilepsy impacts sleep for the child and parents

May 17, 2012
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital for Children in Boston have determined that pediatric epilepsy significantly impacts sleep patterns for the child and parents. According to the study available in Epilepsia, ...

Recommended for you

Who uses phone apps to track sleep habits? Mostly the healthy and wealthy in US

January 16, 2018
The profile of most Americans who use popular mobile phone apps that track sleep habits is that they are relatively affluent, claim to eat well, and say they are in good health, even if some of them tend to smoke.

Improvements in mortality rates are slowed by rise in obesity in the United States

January 15, 2018
With countless medical advances and efforts to curb smoking, one might expect that life expectancy in the United States would improve. Yet according to recent studies, there's been a reduction in the rate of improvement in ...

Teens likely to crave junk food after watching TV ads

January 15, 2018
Teenagers who watch more than three hours of commercial TV a day are more likely to eat hundreds of extra junk food snacks, according to a report by Cancer Research UK.

Can muesli help against arthritis?

January 15, 2018
It is well known that healthy eating increases a general sense of wellbeing. Researchers at Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) have now discovered that a fibre-rich diet can have a positive influence ...

Your dishwasher is not as sterile as you think

January 13, 2018
(HealthDay)—Your dishwasher may get those plates spotless, but it is also probably teeming with bacteria and fungus, a new study suggests.

Study reveals what sleep talkers have to say

January 12, 2018
A team of researchers with members from several institutions in France has conducted a study regarding sleep talking and has found that most sleep talking is not only negative in nature, but involves a large amount of swearing. ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.