Sleep may be fundamental to health, but a study found that lesbian, gay and bisexual adults reported more sleep problems than their heterosexual counterparts. This suggests that sleep difficulties may underlie a number of mental and physical health problems experienced by sexual minorities.
The study, published in Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, borrowed from the minority stress model, which describes how stigmatized minority groups can face high levels of stress due to prejudice and discrimination as well as poor social support, socioeconomic status and other causes.
But rather than focusing directly on the stress itself, this study looks at how all these stresses are affecting the sleep patterns of gay, lesbian and bisexual participants.
Again – to stress – the study found that sexual minority participants reported more sleep difficulties than did heterosexual participants, and women reported more sleep difficulties than men.
Getting proper rest is key to overall health and well-being, with recommendations for people aged between 18 and 64 indicating getting seven to nine hours of sleep a night. Lack of proper sleep has been linked to various health issues, including high blood pressure, diabetes, depression and sexual dysfunction.
The study had over 15,000 participants, mostly heterosexual, with 2.1% identifying as gay, and 1.3% identifying as bisexual. The survey had two questions focused on insomnia, with additional questions focused on the stresses the individuals faced.
This study found that among women, 32% of the effect of sexual orientation on sleep problems was mediated by difficulties in relationships with parents and by associations of family relationship quality with stress. Meanwhile, for men, 27% of the variance was mediated by these variables.
The findings suggest that receipt of psychological treatment might help lesbian, gay and bisexual adults with sleep problems to live healthier.
The study also recommended further study be done on the topic for it to be considered more extensively.