Sleepy teenagers are more likely to be antisocial and have 4.5 times higher odds of committing crime by the time they reach 29 years old, findings of a new study have revealed.

Drowsiness, Antisocial Behavior, And Likelihood To Commit Violent Crimes

Teens who report feeling drowsy in the mid-afternoon are more likely to exhibit more antisocial behavior such as cheating, stealing, lying, and fighting. It appears that these less-than-ideal actions may persist and even get worse as these adolescents get older. Findings of the new study have found that sleepy 15-year-old teens who exhibit antisocial behavior have increased risk of committing violent crimes 14 years later.

For the new study published the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, Adrian Raine, from the Departments of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, and Peter Venables, from the Department of Psychology of the University of York in the UK, involved 101 15-year-old boys to find out if there is a link between adolescent daytime sleepiness and odds of committing criminal offense in adulthood.

At age 15, the participants were asked to rate their degree of sleepiness. Researchers also measured the participants' brainwave activity and sweat rate response to stimuli, which represents brain-attentional function.

Self-reports and ratings from teachers who had worked with the teens for at least four years allowed the researchers to gather data about the participants' antisocial behavior.

Data from the Central Criminal Records Office then allowed the researchers to determine which of the original 101 participants had a criminal record by the time they reached 29 years old.

By excluding minor violations and focusing instead on property offenses and violent crimes that the participants were convicted of, the researchers found that 17 percent of the participants committed crime by adulthood. They also noticed a connection between sleepiness in teen years and committing crime in adulthood.

"Findings are the first to document a longitudinal association between sleepiness in adolescence and crime in adulthood," the researchers wrote in their study. "Findings are also consistent with the notion that the well-established link between social adversity and adult crime is partly explained by sleepiness."

Children Need To Get More Sleep

The researchers said that drowsiness alone does not always predispose boys to become antisocial and many children who have sleep problems do not grow up to become lawbreakers.

The findings, however, found that teenage boys characterized by sleepiness and a greater frequency of antisocial behavior had increased likelihood of having a life of crime later. As to how sleepiness during the day is associated with likelihood of becoming criminal, the researchers offered an explanation.

"Daytime drowsiness is associated with poor attention," Raine explained. "Take poor attention as a proxy for poor brain function. If you've got poor brain functioning, you're more likely to be criminal."

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend that children get more sleep at night as this may potentially help those with behavioral issues.

"That could make a difference not just for antisocial behavior at school with these teenage kids but more importantly, with later serious criminal behavior," Raine said.

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