Sleep problems and posttraumatic stress: Children exposed to a natural disaster

Betty S. Lai, Annette M. La Greca, Courtney A. Colgan, Whitney Herge, Sherilynn Chan, Julia Medzhitova, Mary Short, Beth Auslander

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


Objective: Sleep plays a critical role in children's growth and development. This study examined the frequency and persistence of children's sleep problems following a natural disaster, risk factors for children's sleep problems, and the bidirectional relationship between children's sleep problems and posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) over time. Methods: This study assessed 269 children (53% female, M=8.70 years, SD = 0.95) exposed to Hurricane Ike at 8 months (Time 1) and 15 months (Time 2) post-disaster. Children completed measures of hurricane exposure and related stressors, stressful life events, sleep problems, and PTSS. Results: Children's sleep problems were significantly correlated from Time 1 to Time 2 (r = .28, p < .001). Risk factors for sleep problems at Time 2 were younger age, sleep problems at Time 1, and PTSS, not including sleep items, at Time 1. Examinations of the bidirectional relationship between sleep problems and PTSS indicated that PTSS significantly predicted later sleep problems, but sleep problems did not significantly predict later PTSS. Conclusions: Findings demonstrate that PTSS may contribute to the development and course of children's sleep problems post-disaster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1016-1026
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pediatric Psychology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Oct 1 2020


  • Disaster
  • Life stress
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Sleep.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


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