THURSDAY, Nov. 24, 2022 (HealthDay News) — Transgender youth are more likely than others to have sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, and researchers now recommend that these youth be screened for problems of sleep.
“Transgender and gender nonconforming identity may precede mental health disorders and both influence the diagnosis of insomnia,” said study co-author Galit Levi Dunietz, an epidemiologist in the division of sleep medicine in the department of neurology at the University of Michigan.
For the study, researchers analyzed claims data from more than 1.2 million people ages 12 to 25. Among them were just over 2,600 young people who identified as transgender or gender non-conforming.
The researchers found that transgender youth were 5.4 times more likely than cisgender youth to have insomnia. They were also three times more likely to have sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. (Cisgender means they identify with the gender assigned at birth.)
The results show a worrying number of individuals with disorders that impair sleep quality, said co-author Dr. Ronald Gavidia, a sleep medicine physician at the university.
Other research has suggested that transgender youth and adults also have a high prevalence of depression and anxiety symptoms. These are known to affect sleep quality and health and may be contributing to insomnia in this group, the study authors noted.
“Given this higher prevalence of sleep disorders relative to cisgender youth, clinicians should consider screening and testing this population for such disorders,” said Gavidia.
Among the young transgender people in the study, more than half had sought gender-affirming therapy. Those who did were half as likely to have sleep disturbances as those who did not receive this treatment.
The authors said the findings suggest that gender affirmation therapy may protect against worsening sleep health caused by psychological stressors of bias and discrimination.
“As mood disorders and insomnia have a bidirectional relationship, gender transition through affirmative therapies can improve mental health, which, in turn, can decrease the proportion of insomnia by improving gender dysphoria, low mood and minority stress,” said Gavidia.
The researchers suggested that future studies should assess sleep disturbances before and after gender affirmation therapy.
The results were recently published online at Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine🇧🇷
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more information about sleep disorders.
SOURCE: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, press release, November 21, 2022