Gay, lesbian and bisexual young people are more than twice as likely to experience sleep problems than heterosexual youth, according to a recent study.
The study, “Sexual Orientation Disparities in Early Adolescent Sleep: Findings from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study”, published in LGBT Health analysed data on over 8500 young people between ages 10 to 14.
The report found that in the sample of adolescents, 35.1 per cent of LGBTQI youth said they had difficulty falling or staying asleep in the previous two weeks.
Sexual Orientation & Sleep Habits
Data was collected from 2018-2020 where the teenagers answered questions about their sleep habits and asked about their sexual orientation. Those who were questioning their sexuality (answering “maybe” to being gay, lesbian, or bisexual) were also reported to have had a greater risk for sleep problems compared to their straight peers.
The figure for straight people reporting difficulty falling or staying asleep was 13.5 per cent, while the figure for questioning youth was 30.8 per cent.
According to the lead author of the study Dr Jason Nagata, greater depression, stress, and family conflict were found to be contributors to sleep problems that are experienced by LGBT youth.
“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,” Dr Nagata told US News.
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Dr Nagata also spoke on additional pressures that were potential factors that contributed to sleep trouble. “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”.
Dr Nagata has recently been involved in another study which found queer youth use electronic devices around four hours more a day, on average, than straight adolescents.
Following the results of the sleep study, Dr Nagata recommended that young people establish regular sleep schedules and limit exposure to electronic devices and social media before bed.
Time spent on computers and technology can be a leading cause of overstimulation which results in sleep disturbances. “LGBT kids experience more substance use than their peers, for example, which can alter sleep cycles and impair sleep,” he said.