New research suggests that gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents are more susceptible to sleep disorders than their heterosexual peers.
The study, which was published in the journal LGBT Health, examined 8,500 adolescents between the ages of 10 and 14, a period of rapid physical and mental maturation. In a two-week period, 35.1% of adolescents who identified as gay, lesbian, or bisexual had more sleep problems than 13.5% of their straight peers.
In addition, 30.8% of adolescents who answered “maybe” when asked if they identified as homosexual, lesbian, or bisexual reported difficulties sleeping at night.
“Sleep is incredibly important for a teenager’s health,” says Jason M. Nagata, lead author and professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco. Normal development is facilitated by growth spurts and hormonal fluctuations.
According to Nagata, the majority of children don’t get enough sleep to begin with, but LGBTQ adolescents may face bullying and harassment at school or family conflicts that exacerbate mental health issues. These issues may make it challenging for them to collapse or maintain sleep.
The research team analyzed data from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study from 2018 to 2020, inquiring about sleep patterns with participants and their parents.
“This is such a physically and mentally unstable time,” continues Nagata. Teenagers are especially susceptible to the opinions of their classmates, making them a group at high risk for mental health issues and suicide.
According to Healthnews, there is a need for additional research to clarify the findings and identify other factors that may contribute to sleep problems among LGBT adolescents. “LGBT children consume more substances than their peers, for instance, which can alter sleep cycles and impair sleep,” explains Nagata. In addition, he recommends that adolescents establish a regular sleep schedule to ensure that they receive sufficient rest and limit their smartphone use prior to bedtime.
According to co-author Kyle T. Ganson, a professor at the Factor-Inwentash School of Social Work at the University of Toronto, parents may also support their children’s exploration of their identities and be involved in their lives.
Ganson concludes, “Given the social pressures and physical, psychological, and emotional transformations that occur during adolescence, this is a difficult time for many. Understanding this process and being present to provide support is essential for positive health outcomes.”