Psychological Science Faculty Publications and Presentations

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Insomnia is common in college students and linked to poorer mental and physical health. There is growing evidence that adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) may contribute to insomnia in adulthood. However, beyond the need for additional replication of these findings, there is a need to identify underlying mechanisms that plausibly connect the two experiences. Based on a serial mediation model, the current study examined the role of two theoretically informed mediators: recent stressful life events and perceived stress. A cross-sectional survey of 2,218 college students at a large university in the southwestern United States was conducted between August 2020 and December 2021. The sample was predominantly Hispanic (96%) and female (73%), with a mean age of 20.7 years. Standardized measures of adverse childhood experiences, recent stressful life events, perceived stress, and insomnia were administered to participants online. Almost 20% of participants reported having experienced four or more adverse childhood experiences and 63% met the threshold for insomnia. Reporting four or more ACEs was associated with significantly greater insomnia severity, and this relationship was serially mediated by both recent stressful life events and perceived stress. However, recent stressful life events appeared to be the most powerful mediator. The results of the current study indicate that recent exposure to stressful life events serves as a plausible mechanism linking early adversity during childhood to adult insomnia and could therefore serve as a potential target for intervention. The findings suggest that students would benefit from university-wide efforts to reduce the number and/or intensity of common stressors.


This is an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis in Behavioral Medicine on April 18, 2024, available at:

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Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License

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Behavioral Medicine



vbmd_a_2335175_sm0529.docx (63 kB)
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