Violence disrupts a child's sleep habits
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 nightmares and insomnia 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 victimised during a violent event tend to sleep less and more poorly than children who witnessed a violent event but were not victimised. Children who witness homicide 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 behaviour in different ways, which in turn may negatively affect a child's health and functioning," said James Spilsbury, PhD, the study's principal investigator.