Project

Back to overview

Acute Stress, Emotion Regulation and Sleep in Young Adults with a History of Chronic Stress Exposure

Applicant Bader Klaus
Number 126635
Funding scheme Project funding (Div. I-III)
Research institution Universitäre Psychiatrische Klinken Basel Zentrum Spezielle Psychotherapie ZSP
Institution of higher education University of Basel - BS
Main discipline Psychology
Start/End 01.02.2010 - 31.01.2014
Approved amount 292'189.00
Show all

Keywords (17)

sleep; onsomnia; respiratory sinus arrhythmia; adverse childhood experiences; emotional regulation; actigraphy; Trier Social Stress; Test; Cortisol; maltreatment; childhood; abuse; neglect; stress; insomnia; emotion regulation; salivary cortisol

Lay Summary (English)

Lead
Lay summary
LeadChronic distress in childhood can have a negative impact on sleep quality in adulthood. To elucidate underlying mechanisms, the role of stress reactivity and emotion regulation processes will be examined in young females under laboratory and natural conditions. BackgroundEarly exposure to chronic stressors such as abuse, neglect, and marital conflict can have negative repercussions on children's psychological, social and physical development. The so-called "sensitization hypothesis" proposes that a child's repeated exposure to high levels of distress may predispose hyperarousal reactions to acute stressors in adulthood. Hyperarousal is incompatible with good sleep consolidation. Previous research has highlighted associations between chronic stress in childhood and adolescence and sleep problems in adulthood. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying this association. Hyperactivity of the HPA axis with elevated response to stress and impairments in the regulation of arousal and emotion are possible mediating processes. Aims and MethodsThe aim of this study is to elucidate the psychophysiological mechanisms underlying the relation between stress history and sleep and to get a better understanding of the development of insomnia in the aftermath of early adverse experiences. A sample of young females (N=150) will complete self-report questionnaires assessing abuse, neglect, and violence experiences in childhood. Stress response and emotion regulation capacities will be examined under experimental conditions in the laboratory and under ambulatory every-day conditions by daily self-monitoring. After baseline measurements, a standardized psychosocial stress-induction task will be performed in the laboratory. Stress reactivity will be measured by subjective scales and physiological measures (heart rate, salivary cortisol response, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia). During the following 14 days, sleep, acute stressors and the intensity of response to these stressors will be monitored. Sleep efficiency and rest-activity behavior will be recorded by wrist actigraphy. Sleep-diaries, stress events and stress reactivity data will be collected by hand-held computers.Value of the ProjectResults obtained in this study will lead to a better understanding of physiological and psychological mechanisms underlying long term effects of early stress exposure on stress reactivity, emotion regulation and sleep in adults. A better understanding of these mechanisms has important ramifications for the development of new strategies for the prevention and therapy of stress and trauma-related sleep disturbances.
Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 21.02.2013

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Employees

Publications

Publication
Daily stress, presleep arousal, and sleep in healthy young women: a daily life computerized sleep diary and actigraphy study
Winzeler Katja, Voellmin Annette, Schäfer Valérie, Meyer Andrea H., Cajochen Christian, Wilhelm Frank H., Bader Klaus (2014), Daily stress, presleep arousal, and sleep in healthy young women: a daily life computerized sleep diary and actigraphy study, in Sleep Medicine, 15, 259-266.

Awards

Title Year
Posterpreis der DGPPN 2012

Abstract

1. Summary1.1 BackgroundEarly exposure to chronic stressors such as abuse, neglect, and marital conflict can have negative repercussions on children’s psychological, social and physical development. In specific, chronic stress often leads to hypervigilant, anxious, angry or fearful behavior in children (Cummings & Davies, 2002). The so-called “sensitization hypothesis” proposes that a child’s repeated exposure to high levels of distress is associated with greater emotional and behavioral reactivity in response to conflict and may predispose hyperarousal reactions to acute stressors in adulthood. Hypervigilance (i.e. hyperarousal) is incompatible with good sleep consolidation and can be interpreted as to reflect the degree of readiness and anticipation to deal with potentially negative events. Previous research has highlighted possible associations between chronic stress in childhood and adolescence and sleep problems in adulthood (Bader et al., 1999, 2000, 2007). In a recent longitudinal study, familial conflict experiences proved to be a predictor for later insomnia (El-Sheikh et al., 2006). There are studies with rodents showing that early adversities like prenatal stress and maternal separation can lead to permanent changes of the sleep architecture or to altered stress-induced sleep rebound in adulthood. However, little is known about the mechanisms underlying this association. Hyperactivity of the HPA axis with elevated response to stress and impairments in the regulation of arousal and emotion are possible mediating processes between childhood adversities and sleep in adulthood. 1.2 Working HypothesisBased on previous research, we assume that a history of chronic stress in childhood and adolescence (abuse, neglect, chronic marital conflict) is associated with changes in sleep-wake behavior in young adults such as a more irregular sleep-wake pattern, less sleep efficiency and more disrupted sleep. A history of chronic stress in a sample of young females is associated with:•higher reactivity to acute psychosocial stressors as indexed by greater emotional and physiological responses;•reduced affect regulation, which is responsible for more subjective distress, and higher physiological and cognitive arousal•more ruminating/worrying and stressful dreaming, as indicators of disturbed information processing.1.3 Specific AimsThe primary aim of this study proposal is to extend previous work that showed associations between exposure to chronic severe stress in childhood and disturbed sleep in adulthood, for a population of healthy young females. Specifically, we aim1.to elucidate the psychophysiological mechanisms underlying the relation between stress history and sleep.2.to get a better understanding of the development of insomnia in the aftermath of early adverse experiences.1.4 Experimental Design and MethodsA sample of young females (N=150) will complete self-report questionnaires assessing abuse, neglect, and chronic family conflict experiences in their childhood. Their stress responses and emotion regulation capacities will be examined under experimental conditions in the laboratory and under ambulatory every-day conditions by prospective daily self-monitoring. After an episode of baseline measurements, a standardized psychosocial stress-induction task (i.e., the Montreal Imaging Stress Task (MIST)) will be performed in the laboratory. Stress reactivity will be measured by subjective scales and physiological measures (heart rate, salivary cortisol response, and respiratory sinus arrhythmia). During the following 14 days, sleep, acute stressors and the intensity of response to these stressors will be monitored. Sleep efficiency and rest-activity behavior will be recorded by wrist actigraphy. Sleep-diaries, stress events and stress reactivity data will be collected by hand-held computers (Palmtops).1.5 Expected Value of the Proposed ProjectResults obtained in this study will lead to a better understanding of physiological and psychological mechanisms underlying long term effects of early stress exposure on stress reactivity, emotion regulation and sleep in adults. A better understanding of these mechanisms has important ramifications for the development of new strategies for the prevention and therapy of stress and trauma-related sleep disturbances.The results of the proposed project may be of great interest for experts and research communities in the fields of traumatic stress, developmental psychopathology, psychophysiology, emotion regulation and insomnia.
-