Lack of sleep can contribute to delinquent behavior by adolescents, according to a Florida International University (FIU) study. Researchers have long believed that self-control is a trait developed in childhood, influenced by genetics, socialization, and other developmental factors. Yet a new study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence suggests sleep deprivation can reduce self-control well after childhood and ultimately result in delinquent behavior among teenagers. In other words, adolescents who fail to get restful sleep on a regular basis are less able to effectively regulate their own behavior.
FIU criminal justice researcher and lead author of the study Ryan C. Meldrum says low self-control is the link between lack of sleep and delinquent behavior. Data on more than 800 teenagers were evaluated for the study.

“The harmful implications of sleep deprivation is a largely under-studied area in criminal justice,” Meldrum says in a release. “Sleep offers us the opportunity for recuperation and restoration, which is especially important for developmental processes in children and adolescents.”

While the study acknowledges a variety of factors can lead adolescents to commit crimes, the correlation between sleep and cognitive function definitely requires further study, according to Meldrum. “These findings are particularly instructive in their implications,” Meldrum says. “Whereas some factors linked to low self-control and delinquency are largely immutable, the quantity and quality of sleep that adolescents get is something that parents are in an excellent position to influence.”