Getting enough sleep every night is not only healthy for you, but could keep you out of jail.
A new study has found that teenagers who are not sleeping are almost five times more likely to commit crimes as adults.
Scientists say that youths who self-report feeling drowsy mid-afternoon tend to exhibit more anti-social behavior such as lying, cheating, stealing and fighting.
More than a decade later, those same teens are even more likely to commit violent crimes.
It is the first study to associate daytime sleepiness with committing criminal offenses.
Teenagers who report mid-day drowsiness are almost five times more likely to commit crimes as adults, a new study says (file image)
The study was jointly conducted by the University of Pennsylvania and the University of York in the UK.
‘It’s the first study to our knowledge to show that daytime sleepiness during teenage years are associated with criminal offending 14 years later,’ said Professor Adrian Raine, from the departments of criminology, psychiatry and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania.
Professor Raine had collected the data for this work almost 40 years earlier as part of his PhD research, but had never analyzed it.
However, he recently began noticing cross-sectional studies that connected sleep and behavioral problems in children. He decided to see if there was a link between this and illegal behavior in adulthood in his own work.
‘A lot of the prior research focused on sleep problems, but in our study we measured, very simply, how drowsy the child is during the day,’ Professor Raine said.
He and Peter Venables, an emeritus psychology professor at the University of York, tested 101 15-year-old boys from three secondary schools in the north of England.
The labs ran from 1pm to 3pm and, at the start and the end, Professor Raine would ask the participants to rate their degree of sleepiness on a seven-point scale, with one being ‘unusually alert’ and seven being ‘sleepy’.
Brain-wave activity was measured as well as the level of attention a person paid to a tone being played over headphones. According to Professor Raine, this represented brain-attention function.
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A lack of sleep among the US working population is costing the economy up to $411 billion a year, a new report warns.
Researchers consulted national business reports and peer-reviewed sleep data from five different countries to predict the economic effects of sleeplessness.
The US loses just over 1.2 million working days a year to exhaustion – either from workers taking days off or not performing at their prime.
The study, by the non-profit research firm the RAND Corporation, also warns a lack of sleep drastically raises mortality risk.
‘Poor sleep’ was defined as less than six hours a night, while the optimum amount is somewhere between seven and nine hours.
Those who do not reach the six-hour mark have a 13 percent higher mortality risk than people who sleep eight hours, researchers found.
The ones in between – with about six-and-a-half hours’ sleep – also suffer; they have a seven percent higher mortality risk than their better-rested colleagues.
Then data was collected about anti-social behavior, both self-reported from the study participants, as well as from teachers who had worked with each teen for at least four years.
Professor Raine said: ‘Both are helpful. There are kids who don’t really want to talk about their anti-social behavior, and that’s where the teacher reports really come in handy.
‘Actually, the teacher and child reports correlated quite well in this study, which is not usual. Often, what the teacher says, what the parent says, what the child says—it’s usually three different stories.’
Lastly, from the Central Criminal Records Office in London, Raine searched the original 101 participants to see who had a criminal record at age 29 and focused on convictions for violent crimes and property offenses.
The researchers found that 17 percent of participants had committed a crime by that point in adulthood. Professor Raine added that there was a connection to low socioeconomic status.
‘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’s yes,’ he said.
Put another way, he added: ‘Daytime drowsiness is associated with poor attention. Take poor attention as a proxy for poor brain function. If you’ve got poor brain functioning, you’re more likely to be criminal.’
Drowsiness alone may not always predispose a teenage boy to becoming anti-social or a lawbreaker, the researchers noted.
But they found that both sleepiness and a greater frequency of anti-social behavior during teenage years lent to higher odds of a life of crime later.
The simple recommendation: get more sleep at night.
‘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,’ Professor Raine said.
‘More sleep won’t solve crime, but it might make a bit of a dent.’