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March 01, 2017

Penn study: Tired teens may be more likely to commit serious crimes when they grow up

Research compares teens' daytime drowsiness with their criminal records a decade later

The discussion on why it’s vital for teens to get adequate sleep is not new.

We know that a restful night’s sleep leads to better grades, (and that there’s long been a debate about pushing school start times back to help facilitate that) and we know it’s important for proper growth.

It's also widely known that a large majority of teenagers just aren't getting enough shut-eye. The National Sleep Foundation says that teens need about nine hours a night, but studies suggest only 15 percent of them get that much.

Blame it on late-night texting or late-night studying, but regardless of the reason, the fact remains, teens are tired. 

Now new research led by University of Pennsylvania professor Adrian Raine, which he compiled more than a decade ago when he was a Ph.D. student at the University of York, shows that sleepiness during teenage years may be associated with committing serious crimes in adulthood.

The research is part of a longitudinal study started 30-some years ago, under Peter Venables, an emeritus psychology professor at the University of York, which Raine recently followed up on by comparing the teens who self-reported sleepiness during the day to their crime logs years later. 

To be specific, Raine and Venables interviewed 101 15-year-old boys over multiple lab sessions and asked the boys how tired they were between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. (The researchers also asked the teens' teachers how tired the boys seemed.) 

Raine recently compared that data to the grown participants' criminal records at age 29, focusing only on serious crimes, "including violent crimes and property offenses and only those crimes for which participants were convicted."

The findings: 17 percent of participants had committed a crime by that point in adulthood.

Raine told Penn News in an interview on the new research, which was published last month in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, that it doesn't necessarily mean that getting more sleep as a teen is the answer to curbing criminal action, or that teens who are tired will grow up to be law-breaking citizens. 

Instead, he thinks that sleep "might make a bit of a dent.”

Read more at Penn News.

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