A new national study published in LGBT Health found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are twice as likely to report trouble falling or staying asleep than their straight peers and that greater depression, stress, and family conflict contribute to the sleep problems.

“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,” says lead author Jason Nagata, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, in a press release. “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.”

The researchers analyzed data from 8,563 youth ages 10 to 14 who are part of the Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development Study, a long-term study of brain development and child health in the US. Data were collected from 2018 to 2020. The youth and their parents answered questions about their sleep habits, and youth were asked about their sexual orientation. Youth who were questioning their sexuality (e.g., who replied “maybe” to being gay, lesbian, or bisexual) also had a greater risk for sleep problems compared to their straight peers.

“Families should provide support by being present and encouraging young people’s exploration of their identity and development of a sense of self,” says co-author Kyle T. Ganson, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Toronto’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, in a press release. “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.”

Nagata notes that getting enough sleep is crucial for teenagers. To sleep well, he says teenagers should follow a consistent sleep routine, make sure their sleeping environment is comfortable, and avoid using electronic devices before bed.”

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