Racial/Ethnic Disparities in the Relationship Between Traumatic Childhood Experiences and Suboptimal Sleep Dimensions Among Adult Women: Findings from the Sister Study

Symielle A. Gaston, Ketrell L. McWhorter, Christine G. Parks, Aimee A. D’Aloisio, Darlynn M. Rojo-Wissar, Dale P. Sandler, Chandra L. Jackson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Traumatic childhood experiences (TCEs) are associated with poor adulthood sleep, but racial/ethnic disparities have not been well-studied. We investigated the TCE-adulthood sleep relationship among non-Hispanic (NH)-White, NH-Black, and Hispanic/Latina women. Method: Women enrolled in the Sister Study from 2003 to 2009 reported the following TCEs in a follow-up interview (2008–2012): natural disasters; major accidents; household dysfunction; and sexual, physical, and psychological/emotional abuse. Sleep characteristics included short sleep duration (< 7 h vs. 7–9 h), long sleep onset latency (SOL) (> 30 vs. ≤ 30 min), frequent night awakenings (≥ 3 times/night ≥ 3 times/week [yes vs. no]), and frequent napping (≥ 3 vs. < 3 times/week). Using log-binomial regression to estimate prevalence ratios (PRs) and 95% confidence intervals (CIs) for sleep characteristics among women with vs. without TCEs, we investigated racial/ethnic-specific associations and race/ethnicity as a moderator. Results: Among 40,082 participants (mean age = 55 ± 8.8 years), 55% reported ≥ 1 TCE (NH-White, 54%; NH-Black, 62%; Hispanic/Latina, 57%). NH-White, NH-Black, and Hispanic/Latina women reporting any TCE had a higher prevalence of short sleep compared with their within-race/ethnicity counterparts without TCEs. Associations were strongest among NH-Whites. Compared to NH-Whites with no TCEs, racial/ethnic minorities who reported any TCEs had a higher prevalence of short sleep (PRBlacks = 2.13 [95% CI 2.02–2.24], PRHispanics/Latinas = 1.47 [1.35–1.60]) and long SOL. When comparing racial/ethnic minorities with TCEs to NH-Whites with TCEs, PRs for short sleep (PRBlacks = 1.98 [1.88–2.08] and PRHispanics/Latinas = 1.36 [1.25–1.48]) and long SOL were weaker. Conclusion: TCEs were positively associated with poor sleep characteristics among women, and TCEs appear to contribute to short sleep duration and long SOL disparities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)116-129
Number of pages14
JournalInternational Journal of Behavioral Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was financially supported by the Intramural Program at the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences [Z1A ES103325-01 (C.L.J.) and Z01 ES044005 (D.P.S.)] and by the National Institute of Mental Health’s Psychiatric Epidemiology Training Program [5T32MH014592-39 (D.R.W.), PI: Zandi, Peter].

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, International Society of Behavioral Medicine.


  • Adverse childhood experiences
  • Ethnicity
  • Race
  • Sleep
  • Trauma
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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