Lesbian & Bi Girls Can’t Sleep

A new study explains why.

A new study published in the journal LGBT Health revealed that LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to suffer from sleep issues than their straight counterparts.

Lead author Jason M. Nagata, a professor of pediatrics at the University of California, explains that growth spurts and hormonal occur during teenage years and that “sleep is incredibly important for a teenager’s health.”

For the study, 8,500 young people ages 10 to 14 were surveyed by Nagata’s team. They found that 35.1% of those who identified as gay, lesbian, or bi had trouble falling or staying asleep in the previous two weeks, compared to 13.5% of straight young people. 30.8% of adolescents who were unsure of their sexuality, who answered “maybe” to being gay also reported problems with falling and/or staying asleep. The time between ages 10 and 14 are an important time for mental and physical development according to research. Nagata’s team used also data from 2018 to 2020 from the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, which included questions for both the subjects and their parents about their sleep habits.

Nagata says that sleep is usually an issue for all teens, but that bullying and discrimination at school, and increased instances of substance abuse, can contribute to LGBTQ+ kids’ mental health issue, thus amplifying their sleep struggles.

“This is such a volatile period, both physically and mentally,” he told NBC Out. “Teens are particularly vulnerable to the opinions of their peers, so it’s a high-risk group for mental health problems and suicide.”

“LGB kids experience more substance use than their peers, for example, which can alter sleep cycles and impair sleep,” he said.

Existing research already shows that sexual minorities are more likely to experience sleep issues, but Nagata says he believes this is the first time gay, lesbian and bisexual youths have been the focus. Further research can illuminate the root cause of the sleep issues and explore Nagata’s current theories.

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