What Causes Crime? New Study Links Lack Of Sleep By Teenagers To Criminal Behavior As Adults

Drowsiness might not just have ill effects on a person’s day— it could also impact life years later. A study published in the journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that teenagers who reported feeling tired in the middle of the day were more...

What Causes Crime? New Study Links Lack Of Sleep By Teenagers To Criminal Behavior As Adults

Drowsiness might not just have ill effects on a person’s day— it could also impact life years later. A study published in the journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry found that teenagers who reported feeling tired in the middle of the day were more than four times more likely to commit crimes as adults.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of York in the U.K. collected data from 101 15-year-old boys from schools in England to get the results.

“It’s the first study to our knowledge to show that daytime sleepiness during teenage years is associated with criminal offending 14 years later,” Adrian Reine, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania and the study’s lead author, said in a statement about the study Friday.

To collect the data, Reine and his team asked the students to rate their degree of sleepiness and measured brain wave activity and other physiological responses. They also collected data about anti-social behavior, including lying, cheating, stealing and fighting, by talking to the students and their teachers. Reine then searched the archives at London’s Central Criminal Records Office to see which of the students had a criminal record at the age of 29.

Sleepiness has become something of an epidemic among teenagers, especially in the United States. More than 87 percent of high school students said they got less than the recommended eight to 10 hours of sleep, according to a 2006 National Sleep Foundation Poll. A similar poll conducted in 2011 showed that by the time students reached senior year, they were sleeping an average of 6.9 hours per night, down from 8.4 hours in sixth grade.

Reine cautioned that drowsiness as a teen doesn’t mean a person will become a criminal and that there were important links to a person’s socioeconomic status as well.

“Is it the case that low social class and early social adversity results in daytime drowsiness, which results in inattention or brain dysfunction, which results 14 years later in crime? The answer is yes,” he said. “Think of a flow diagram from A to B to C to D. Think of a chain. There is a significant link.”

The researchers’ suggestion? Get more sleep.

“That could make a difference not just for anti-social behavior at school with these teenage kids but more importantly, with later serious criminal behavior,” said Reine. “More sleep won’t solve crime, but it might make a bit of a dent.”

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