A new study suggests that sleepy teenagers who reported feeling tired in the middle of the day were at least four times more likely to become criminals as an adult.

It’s the first study of its kind, asking 15-year-old boys to rate how sleepy they feel on a daily basis. While measuring their brain wave activity, it was determined that antisocial behavior was more common in tired children.

A pupil concentrates in a classroom at the European school of Strasbourg, eastern France, on September 4, 2012, after the start of the new school year. Image Credit: Air Talk KPCC

Researchers looked into the archives of London’s Central Criminal Records Office for 29-year-olds with a criminal record. In turn, antisocial behavior in teenage years is linked to a higher probability of committing a crime in adulthood.

Criminal behavior may imply a sleepy teenagehood

The study was performed by researchers from the University of York and the University of Pennsylvania. They surveyed one hundred 15-year-old teens from three different schools in England and rated their degree of sleepiness in a seven-degree scale.

The participants’ physiological signs were also documented, such as sweat responses to stimuli, which is labeled by researchers as an indicator of brain-attention.

The team led by Adrian Raine, Richard Perry University Professor of Criminology, Psychiatry, and Psychology at the Univerity of Pennsylvania measured the teens’ predisposal to anti-social behavior by taking into account reports provided by the boys themselves and from teachers who had come in contact with the participants in the past few years.

“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,” stated Raine, according to Psych Central.

Years later, researchers analyzed London’s Central Criminal Records Office database to determine whether the participants obtained a criminal record, disregarding minor violations and focusing on violent crimes and events ending with the person getting convicted.

Socioeconomic status leads to sleepy teens, tired teens to adult criminals

After analyzing the data, Raine examined the participant’s socioeconomic situation, and he assures having found a connection. He believes that there is a chain between all of these elements, proposing that small social class and early antisocial behavior cause daytime sleepiness, which in turn reduces brain-attention, and 14 years down the road it causes criminal behavior.

“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,” Raine stated.

Although the relationship appears to be straightforward, Raine says that sleepy teens are not inherently predisposed to become antisocial or criminals for that matter. When comparing rates of sleepiness and antisocial behavior during the study, he saw that 17 percent of the participants had committed a crime by the time they were 29.

He suggests that having children with behavioral issues sleep for longer hours could potentially reduce their brain disturbances and allow them to be more focused at school and in life, keeping them away from criminal behavior in the future.

Source: Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry