Methods: Families involved with departments of human services were recruited to participate in a larger longitudinal study involving families experiencing adversity. Participants included 70 mothers (Mage=29.88 years, SDage=6.49) and their infants (Mage=8.47 months, SDage=2.39) with low-income. Data on mother’s sleep health (Pittsburgh Sleep Quality Index, actigraphy, and sleep diaries), adverse childhood experiences (ACEs Scale), and current household stressors (Confusion, Hubbub, and Order Scale) were used for the present study. Independent samples t-tests and regression analyses were conducted to determine the associations among childhood maltreatment and household stressors, current household stressors, and indices of sleep health.
Results: Results revealed that mother’s with experiences of household stressors in childhood were more likely to experience household stressors during the postpartum period (t=-3.02, p<.01). Although experiencing current household stressors was associated with poor sleep quality (B=.03, p<.05), household stressors in childhood were more strongly associated with poor sleep health postpartum, as indicated by higher sleep disturbance (B=1.03, p<.05) and poorer sleep quality (B=.13, p<.05). In sum, childhood household stressors were a significant correlate of poor sleep health over and above current household stressors and childhood maltreatment.
Conclusions and Implications: Findings indicate that experiences of adversity in childhood carry over into the postpartum period and may be key social determinants of poor maternal sleep health. Our findings were even more pronounced among mothers who experienced household stressors during childhood, indicating that they may be particularly sensitive to characteristics in their early home environments in the context of later health outcomes. Given that problems with sleep are also likely to be passed down intergenerationally and help to explain observed health disparities among marginalized groups, it is essential to understand how specific and co-occurring adversities in childhood and early postpartum influence sleep health. This greater understanding can assist in developing specific targets for future intervention with the goal of closing the health gap for mother-infant dyads.