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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?

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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.

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