Do transgender young people have trouble sleeping?

Teens and young adults who self-identify as transgender or are nonconforming are more likely to have sleep problems than their cisgender counterparts.

A new study conducted by Michigan Medicine at the University of Michigan in the US has found that transgender youth are 5.4 times more prone to sleep disorders such as insomnia and three times more likely to have sleep apnea.

The study is considered a breakthrough in sleep analysis, as sleep health has rarely been studied in transgender and non-conforming youth.

Let’s take a closer look at that.

What did the study find?

The study included an analysis of data obtained from more than 1.2 million young people between the ages of 12 and 25. Of these, 2,603 ​​identified as transgender and gender non-conforming.

The results of the research are published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine and they are worrying.

Mental health was found to play a major role in keeping transgender youth awake. Galit Levi Dunietz, one of the study’s authors, said, “Transgender and gender-nonconforming identity can precede mental disorders and both influence the diagnosis of insomnia.”

It is not an unknown fact that gender minorities around the world are constantly and disproportionately burdened by poor mental health resulting from low community support, stigma and discrimination.

Sleep Foundation notes that not keeping up mentally and emotionally is directly related to how well a person sleeps. Mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and the like are closely intertwined with sleep.

“These results show a worrying number of individuals with conditions that impair sleep quality,” said Ronald Gavidia, a sleep medicine physician at the University of Michigan Health Department of Neurology.

He added, “Given this higher prevalence of sleep disorders in relation to cisgender youth, clinicians should consider screening and testing this population for such disorders.”

What is gender affirming therapy and how does it help?

On the bright side, however, researchers also analyzed the links between gender-affirming therapy and sleep disorders, and it was ultimately found that these therapies act as a “protective” shield against deteriorating sleep health.

Gender-affirming therapy, according to Psychiatrie.orgis a therapeutic attitude that focuses on affirming one’s gender identity, not trying to “fix” it.

Gender affirming therapies address themes and issues such as trauma, shame, depression, self-harm, violence, sexuality, medical treatment, and social stigma. The therapy helps a person accept their gender identity, gives them space to process and understand the changes, and creates a safe space for them.

Also Read: No Social Media, THIS is the No. 1 Sleep Killer

The Michigan University research team investigated the possible relationship between gender-affirming therapies and sleep disorders. To everyone’s surprise, more than half of the transgender young people who were part of the study had received the therapy and this group was “half as likely to have a sleep disorder than transgender people who did not receive the therapy”.

Based on these positive results, we can safely say that gender affirming therapy could indeed have a protective effect against sleep disorders.

Gavidia noted, “Since mood disorders and insomnia have a bidirectional relationship, gender reassignment through affirmative therapies could improve mental health, which in turn may reduce the proportion of insomnia by improving gender dysphoria, low mood, and minority stress.”

Mental health in transgender people

Transgender people don’t have it easy. Being a minority, they often face stigma, oppression and discrimination, all of which are major contributors to poor mental health.

In addition to the higher prevalence of mental health complications, transgender people also often lack health care facilities.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), transgender people and other gender minorities make up 25 million of the world’s population.

According to the US Transgender Survey, many transgender people often experience abuse and discrimination. Of the total respondents to their survey, 39 percent reported serious mental health problems, compared to five percent of the general U.S. population.

Meanwhile, 40 percent of respondents also noted that they had attempted suicide in their lifetime.

The consequences of sleep disorders

Lack of sleep has consequences that are far from benign. The National Library of Medicine notes that an average of 50 to 70 million Americans suffer chronically from sleep disturbances and wakefulness.

The health consequences of sleep deprivation and sleep-related disorders include judgment errors, poor performance, accidents and injuries, and deteriorating quality of life.

The symptoms of sleep disorders, according to the International Classification of Sleep Disorders, include excessive daytime sleepiness, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, and abnormal or irritable behavior.

With input from agencies

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Do transgender young people have trouble sleeping?

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