LGB youth have more trouble sleeping than straight youth

portrait of a teenage girl suffering from insomnia lying in bed at night.
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A new study has found that LGB adolescents are more likely to have trouble sleeping than their straight peers.

The study was published in the journal LGBT Health and examined the sleep habits of over 8500 kids ages 10 to 14. The researchers found that 35.1% of kids identifying as LGB said they struggled to fall or stay asleep in the past two weeks, compared to 13.5% of straight kids. They also found that 30.8% of adolescents who said they were questioning their sexuality had trouble sleeping.

The authors said sleep issues were likely the result of the added stress and mental health challenges often associated with being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, especially for those who lack parental support.

“Depressive problems, stress, family conflict, and less parental monitoring partially mediate disparities in sleep health for sexual minority youth,” they wrote. “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.”

The study’s lead author, Jason M. Nagata, emphasized to NBC News that sleep is critical for teen health. “There’s growth spurts and hormonal changes that help you develop normally,” he explained.

He also suggested other reasons why LGB youth struggle more than their straight peers, including the fact that they use more substances and have significantly more daily screen time, both of which disrupt sleep.

Psychiatrist Dr. Matthew Hirchtritt added that poor sleep and poor mental health go hand in hand. “It’s likely that one feeds off the other — poor sleep worsening mental health issues and mental health issues worsening sleep.”

He also said that poor sleep “can exacerbate some of the school-based problems that LGBT youth already face” by making it more difficult for them to finish their work.

To combat this, co-author Kyle T. Ganson, urged parents to support their LGBTQ+ children however they can.

“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.”

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