Lead author Cecilia Y. M. Poon, a doctoral student at the University of Southern California's Davis School of Gerontology and colleagues conducted an analysis of data from 877 adults age 60 and older found that early parental emotional abuse was associated with a higher number of sleep complaints in old age.
However, it was emotional abuse, rather than physical abuse or emotional neglect, which was linked to trouble getting a good night's sleep as a senior, Poon says.
"A negative early attachment continues to exert an influence on our well being decades later through an accumulation of stressful interpersonal experiences across our lives," Poon says in a statement.
"The impact of abuse stays in the system. Emotional trauma may limit a person's ability to fend for themselves emotionally and successfully navigate the social world."
The study data was from 3,500 adults who responded to questions about their childhood, then a decade later, they were asked follow-up questions about sleep, relationships and emotional distress. Poon's study analyzed answers from those age 60 and older.
The findings are published in the Journal of Gerontology Series B: Psychological and Social Sciences.