In yet another sign of the stress that can haunt gay, lesbian and bisexual youth, a new study finds that compared with their straight peers, they are twice as likely to report trouble falling asleep or staying asleep.
Depression and family conflict may be contributing to sleep issues in young LGBTQ people, the researchers noted.
“Young people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual may face discrimination and negative attitudes because of their sexual orientation. These experiences can make it harder for them to get a good night’s sleep,” said lead author Dr. Jason Nagata, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco.
“Difficulties getting along with family, feeling sad and hopeless, and being under a lot of pressure could all make it hard for lesbian, gay and bisexual youth to sleep well,” he explained.
For the study, Nagata’s team used data from 2018 to 2020 on more than 8,500 chlidren aged 10 to 14 who were part of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, a large, long-term study of brain development and child health in the United States.
The children and their parents answered questions about their sleep habits. The kids were also asked about their sexual orientation. Those who were only starting to question their sexuality also had greater risk for sleep problems compared to their straight peers, the investigators found.
“Families should provide support by being present and encouraging young people’s exploration of their identity and development of a sense of self,” said study co-author Kyle Ganson. He is an assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work.
“Adolescent development is a challenging time for many, given the social pressures and physical, psychological and emotional changes that occur. Understanding this process and being present to support it is crucial for positive health outcomes,” Ganson said in a university news release.
The findings were published online recently in the journal LGBT Health.
“Getting enough sleep is crucial for teenagers because it helps their body and mind grow and develop properly,” Nagata said. “To sleep well, teenagers should follow a consistent sleep routine, make sure their sleeping environment is comfortable, and avoid using electronic devices before going to bed.”
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sleep for middle and high school students.
SOURCE: University of Toronto, news release, March 24, 2023
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