The following is a visitor-submitted question or story. For more, you can submit your own sleep story here, or browse the collection of experiences and questions other visitors have shared here.

Sleep and Crime - A Connection?

by Momma Karny

I am wondering if anyone has ever conducted sleep studies on inmates. The reason I ask is I believe there may well be a connection between the sleepy mind and crime. I understand that studies are very expensive, as I have read Dr. Dement's book, "The Promise Of Sleep." But, isn't there a way to study this, or possibly find a connection?

Thank you very much,

Undergraduate Student, Criminal Justice
Argosy University Chicago

P.S. I do have a personal interest in this also, because I am a diagnosed Narcoleptic.

Kevin's Answer

Hi Jessica,

What a great and interesting question. From what I know the connection between sleep deprivation and crime specifically has not been studied extensively, although many factors point to the fact that it should be.

There was one study a few years back published in the Journal of Forensic Sciences that examined the relationship between the psychological symptoms of sex offenders and whether or not they had obstructive sleep apnea, which can disrupt sleep to a very high degree. You can get a bit more info on that study here.

You're very right to expect there to possibly be some type of connection between sleep deprivation and crime. What we already know about the effects of sleep deprivation on motivation, depression, and even self-control and impulsiveness. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence (and you can see this intuitively too) that a sleep deprived individual can be more readily provoked to anger and rage. On the motivation side of things, one might be able to expect that a chronically sleep deprived person who develops an apathetic attitude might be more likely to
spiral down a slippery slope in life that can increase the probability of crime or time spent in prison.

Additionally, another factor of interest here that calls to be mentioned is the link between insomnia and mental illness. A study from a few years back by the National Institute of Mental Health (with a large sample size) found that 40 percent of those with insomnia and 46 percent of those with hypersomnia suffered from a mental disorder. Specifically, there are associations of sleep disturbances or insomnia with depression, the manic phase of bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, and post traumatic stress disorder.

While it may be a jump to offer any concrete linkage between mental illnesses and crime, there's certainly something to be said of the anxiety problems that can arise or be perpetuated by chronic sleep problems.

The possible link between crime and sleep seems to be quite a ripe area for potential future research. Does anyone else know of any work that has already been done? Feel free to follow up by posting additional comments using the link just below.

P.S. Interestingly enough, there has also been a number of intriguing case studies of crimes, including murder, that have been caused directly by a sleep disorder. Check out this page about sleep-related violence and the trials that ensue to learn more.

P.P.S. Jessica, I would love it if you would be able to share any of your insights and experiences from living with narcolepsy. We're trying to start some conversation from diagnosed narcoleptics to help increase awareness and understanding of the condition among the public. If you'd like to contribute you can do some from this page.


Comments for Sleep and Crime - A Connection?

Click here to add your own comments

Jun 01, 2015
sleep and crime NEW
by: Nahrian Be

I am currently conducting a research paper in which I am pulling up past criminal acts of murder and sexual offences in a specific area that is located near rail road tracks. I have chosen this area because I am trying to link the trains horn disrupting citizens sleep and the crime rate in this specific area.

Feb 15, 2017
Salt Lake Mental Health Counselor. NEW
by: Ragan Steele, lcmhc

I am a therapist in a jail. I find that many inmates complain about sleep. Some of this can be explained by jail conditions and anxiety or possibly bipolar disorder. However I have also considered this hypothesis. The 'tired' feeling has been linked to alcoholism and drug use which further increases the probability of an individual to engage in criminal activity. I do believe there is a corrilation here. I believe lack of sleep leads to inhibiton and quite possibly criminal behaviors.

Click here to add your own comments

Join in and write your own page! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Sleep Questions and Answers.

Enjoy this page? Please help us pay it forward to others who would find it valuable by Liking, Sharing, Tweeting, Stumbling, and/or Voting below.

About This Site

Welcome! This site is continuously being created by students of Dr. William C. Dement's Sleep And Dreams course at Stanford University.

We made this site as a call to action for people all over the world to live healthier, happier, safer, and more productive lives by learning about their own sleep. We have faith that reading the information provided on this site will motivate you to be smart about your sleep deprivation and strategic about your alertness in order to live life to your fullest, most energetic potential.

In fact, we challenge you to do so! What do you say, are you up for the challenge?

A Note On Visitor-Submitted Questions:

Publishing sleep stories and questions from our visitors is meant to create a forum for open and proactive dialogue about an extremely important portion of our lives (one that occupies 1/3 of it and affects the other 2/3) that isn't talked about enough. It is not meant to substitute a trip to the doctor or the advice of a specialist. It's good to talk; it is not good to avoid consulting someone who's profession it is to help you with this kind of stuff.

If you are in any way concerned about your sleep health, don't wait for an answer on here, and don't necessarily rely on them. See a sleep specialist in your area as soon as possible.

More Questions:

Ask | Answer

The Stanford Sleep Book

Stanford Sleep Book Picture

Dr. Dement's pioneering textbook has been the core text for Sleep and Dreams since 1980, but it has just recently been made available to the wider public for the first time.

In it you'll find a more detailed account of the most important things you need to know about sleep, alertness, dreams, and sleep disorders. Studies, statistics, plus plenty of Dr. Dement's classic anecdotes painting the history of sleep medicine.

Preface | Intro | Contents | Get A Copy

More Sleep Resources

The Zeo

A revolution in personal sleep tracking, the Zeo is a wireless headband that transmits your brainwaves in realtime to a dock (pictured here) or your smartphone. The result? You can wake up and see exactly what stages of sleep you were in during the night! Unprecedented personalized sleep knowledge.

Sleep Paralysis: A Dreamer's Guide

Sleep Paralysis Treatment Book

Ever woken up paralyzed? A surprising number of us have, believe it or not. But few know the actual causes of this phenomenon, and fewer still how to exert control over it. Dream researcher and sleep paralysis expert Ryan Hurd shares breakthrough insights into how to do just that.

Important Disclaimer

Please Note:

The information found on this page and throughout this site is intended for general information purposes only. While it may prove useful and empowering, it is NOT intended as a substitute for the expertise and judgments of healthcare practitioners.

For more info, see our
Terms of Use.