THURSDAY 24 Nov. 2022 (HealthDay News) — Transgender youth are more likely than others to experience sleep disorders such as insomnia and sleep apnea, and researchers are now recommending that these youth be screened for sleep problems.
“Transgender and gender-nonconforming identity can precede mental disorders, and both influence the diagnosis of insomnia,” said study co-author Galit Levi Dunietz, an epidemiologist in the University of Michigan division of sleep medicine.
For the study, the 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 nonconforming.
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The researchers found that transgender youth were 5.4 times more likely to suffer from insomnia than cisgender youth. They were also three times more likely to have sleep apnea or other sleep disorders. (Cisgender means they identify with the sex assigned at birth).
The results show a worrying number of individuals with conditions that impair sleep quality, said study 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 they may contribute to insomnia in this group, the study authors noted.
“Given this higher prevalence of sleep disorders in relation to cisgender youth, clinicians should consider screening and testing this population for such disorders,” Gavidia said.
More than half of the transgender youth in the study had received 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 suggested that having gender-affirming therapy could protect against worsening sleep health caused by psychological stressors from prejudice and discrimination.
“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,” Gavidia said.
The researchers suggested that future studies should evaluate sleep disturbances before and after gender-affirming therapy.
The findings were recently published online in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on sleep disorders.
SOURCE: Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan, press release, November 21, 2022