The Role of Anxiety Sensitivity in the Relationship Between Childhood Maltreatment and Sleep Disturbance



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Introduction: Individuals who have experienced childhood maltreatment are vulnerable to developing various mental disorders, such as PTSD, and are more likely to experience sleep disturbance, which furthers their risk of developing comorbid disorders. Anxiety sensitivity (AS) is a transdiagnostic mechanism with clinical relevance to both PTSD and sleep disturbance. The current study examined the role of AS in the association between childhood maltreatment and sleep disturbance among a sample of psychiatric inpatients. Childhood maltreatment severity was expected to be associated with elevated AS, which in turn, was expected to be positively associated with sleep disturbance. Childhood maltreatment was hypothesized to be indirectly associated with sleep disturbance through AS. Exploratory analyses were conducted to further elucidate this association by examining the effects of specific types of childhood maltreatment. Covariates included gender and a positive substance use urinalysis screening at intake. Methods: Participants included 88 psychiatric inpatients (62.5% male; Mage= 33.32, SD= 11.07) who reported experiencing childhood maltreatment via an online questionnaire battery. Results: AS was positively associated with both childhood maltreatment severity and sleep disturbance. Childhood maltreatment severity was indirectly associated with sleep disturbance, through AS. Exploratory analyses revealed that the main analysis findings did not differ based on childhood maltreatment type. Conclusions: Given the malleability of AS via brief AS-focused interventions, these findings have the potential to inform care and improve clinical outcomes among psychiatric inpatient populations.