Poor sleep efficiency may contribute to vascular dysfunction with increasing exposure to adverse childhood experiences.
New research has found that childhood trauma is associated with reduced vascular function and diminished sleep quality in young adults, according to investigators at the University of Iowa.1
Additionally, the study found that poor sleep efficiency may contribute to vascular dysfunction with increasing exposure to adverse childhood experiences. However, improving sleep quality could offset some of these harmful effects of childhood trauma.
“Our research study showed that adverse childhood events are related to lower vascular function in young adults,” said lead researcher Laura Schwager, postbaccalaureate research coordinator and PhD candidate at the University of Iowa, in an interview with the American Physiological Society.2 “And when I say, ‘lower vascular function,’ vascular function is a predictor of cardiovascular disease risk later in life.”
Adverse childhood experiences are highly stressful and potentially traumatic events that occur during the first 18 years of life, which is the most critical developmental period. Earlier research has already established that those who experience adverse childhood events have a higher risk for cardiovascular disease later in life, but the biological mechanisms underlying this health disparity are not well understood.1
In the new study, investigators aimed to better understand how adverse childhood events increase the risk of cardiovascular disease to aid in the development of better preventive measures and treatments. Researchers assessed 22 young men and women for adverse childhood event exposure, anxiety, and depressive symptoms, using the Zung Self-Rating Anxiety scale and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression scale.
Among young adults, the investigators found that adverse childhood events have a negative impact on blood vessel function, whereas sleep efficiency has a positive effect regardless of anxiety or depression symptoms. In addition, sleep efficiency appears to be a mediator of the relationship between adverse childhood events and blood vessel function.
“These findings have significant implications for human health,” Schwager said in the press release. “But we also caution that this is a preliminary investigation, and we will need studies with larger, more diverse samples to confirm this relationship and also to examine whether improving sleep in those with [adverse childhood events] results in improved vascular function and lower cardiovascular disease risk.”
The findings were presented at the American Physiology Summit, the annual meeting of the American Physiological Society.