Lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people have a far greater incidence of sleep disturbances than straight ones, likely due to the effects of discrimination, according to the recent Sexual Orientation Disparities in Early Adolescent Sleep: Findings from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study.
In a sample of 8,563 adolescents 10- to 14-years-old, the study noted that 35.1 percent of LGB youth said they had difficulty falling or staying asleep in the previous two weeks. The figure for straight people in that age group was 13.5 percent, and the figure for questioning youth was 30.8 percent.
Lead author Jason M. Nagata, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California (San Francisco), said "Sleep problems for LGB youth are likely caused by discrimination and bullying at school as well as lack of family support."
“This is such a volatile period, both physically and mentally, that teens are particularly vulnerable to the opinions of their peers, so it’s a high-risk group for mental health problems and suicide,” he added.
Professor Nagata also called for additional research on sleep problems among sexual minority youth. “LGB kids experience more substance use than their peers, for example, which can alter sleep cycles and impair sleep,” he told.
The conclusions of the study indicate that sexual minority status may be linked to sleep disturbance in early adolescence. Depressive problems, stress, family conflict, and less parental monitoring partially mediate disparities in sleep health for sexual minority youth. A future research could test interventions to promote family and caregiver acceptance and mental health support for sexual minority youth to improve their sleep and other health outcomes.