Why Does Sexual Abuse Interfere with Sleep?

Safety during sleep is likely compromised in cases of childhood sexual abuse

Sleep Disturbances and Childhood Sexual Abuse | Journal of Pediatric Psychology | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

Anthropologic erudition indicates that sleep is naturally restricted to times and places of safety. Safety during sleep is likely compromised in cases of childhood sexual abuse where victimization takes place in the bedroom, which can thereafter become a place associated with sexual violation. In addition, abuse often occurs at night although the child is sleeping perhaps resulting in feelings of increased vulnerability during times set aside for rest. Thus, sexual abuse victims may suffer additional threats to safety and protection, which serve to compound sleep disturbances above and beyond those associated with coexisting depression and PTSD.

Sleep Disturbances and Childhood Sexual Abuse | Journal of Pediatric Psychology | Oxford Academic (oup.com)

• In victims of sexual abuse with post-traumatic stress disorder and sleep disturbances, characteristics of sexual abuse can predict the severity and frequency of sleep disturbances. • Adult victims who were sexually abused during childhood or adolescence reported higher levels of distress associated with nightmares than did victims abused during adulthood. • Victims assaulted by multiple offenders at the same time exhibited higher frequencies of nightmares compared to victims assaulted by a single offender.

Sleep disturbances and nightmares in victims of sexual abuse with post-traumatic stress disorder: an analysis of abuse-related characteristics (nih.gov)
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