Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It Kills to Not Sleep...Apparently

It Kills to Not Sleep…Apparently

Does sleep deprivation as a teen cause you to commit a crime 14 years later? According to a study reported by the Daily Mail in London, a professor of criminology, psychiatry, and psychology at the University of Pennsylvania is claiming this fact. Adrian Raine is claiming that sleep deprivation as a teen makes you 5 times more likely to commit a crime as an adult. How he went about testing this hypothesis was that he asked 101 15-year-old boys how sleep deprived they felt on a scale of 1-7 where 1 is very alert and 7 is very drowsy. He brought each boy into his lab and measured their brain-wave activity and he also measured their level of attention to a tone played in headphones they were provided. Per Raine, this was representative of brain-attention function. He also spoke with teachers of the boys and asked them how social they were as students. 15 years later he looked up criminal records of the 101 boys he studied, and 17 percent of them had committed a crime by that point in adulthood.

            If any of this seems completely confusing and random to you, then you are not the only one. So much of this study raised red flags to me that the data can’t be considered factual and relevant to what was trying to be measured. For one, nowhere in the article does it state how they chose the boys they tested. Did they test students with bad grades? Did they test students who looked tired?  It is never clearly stated, and this is a cause for concern because they could have chosen children that had already had criminal records prior to testing which would have skewed the data. Another point of confusion that struck me when reading the article was the fact that they asked the boys how tired they were at 1 pm and at 3 pm, before and after testing their brain-attention levels that I spoke about in the first paragraph. First, they arbitrarily chose these times, meaning there was no real reason for choosing 1 pm and 3 pm other than the fact that this was when they were available to test the students. Second, the data they obtained could again be skewed and biased since they asked these children in the afternoon if they felt tired, and speaking from experience, most students, having been awake for several hours at this point, feel more energized in the early afternoon as compared to the morning thus leading to my conclusion that this data is again biased. Regarding the asking of teachers about how the students were socially, this again could have been falsified and biased. The teachers could have been aware of the study going on, seeing as there is no mention of how the teachers were selected, and the data could have been skewed to favor the results the researchers were trying to obtain. Also, most students are less social in school settings because they are there to get an education rather than fool around with friends, so asking the teachers isn’t the best measure of social behavior for these kids. Lastly, no results were given about how students responded to the questions of how sleep deprived they felt, no results were given about how many students were deemed anti-social, and no results were given regarding the brain-attention level of these students. They then proceeded to state that 15 years later, another arbitrary number, 17 percent of the 101 students they had tested had been involved in a crime by this time. How can you randomly state something like that with no discussion of results, or even a mention of data received? To me this whole article can’t be taken seriously and without substantial facts, it is impossible to conclude that teens who are sleep deprived are 5 times more likely to commit a crime in adulthood.

          Taking a biological standpoint there are numerous facts stated in the study that aren’t conclusive to conclude sleep deprivation as a teenager causes criminal behavior as an adult. One problem that I have with the study is that they studied brain-wave activity to test for brain-attention function to see how tired students were. This could very easily have been disrupted by a number of factors such as drugs such as anti-depressants or stimulants which are often taken in teenagers in the form of caffeine and anti-depressant medications in teens with anxiety disorders. These types of drugs have a significant effect not only on the attention span of the students, but also the brain activity whether it be an increase or decrease to activity. Another problem I had with this study is the fact that anxiety itself can cause students to have increased brain activity in the form of activating the “fight or flight response.”  Approximately 10% of teenagers have anxiety in the United States so it’s certainly not out of the realm of possibility that some of these studied teenagers had anxiety which could have caused specific responses in the brain tests. In a study that looked at the effects of poor sleep and whether or not this caused aggressive and violent behavior the researchers stated, “In most people poor sleep will not evoke actual physical aggression, but certain individuals, such as forensic psychiatric patients, may be particularly vulnerable to the emotional dysregulating effects of sleep disturbances.” More than one factor is at play when it comes to aggressive and violent behavior than just sleep deprivation, therefore stating that there is a correlation between sleep deprivation and criminal activity in the future is incorrect. It is no surprise to anyone that not getting enough sleep can cause you to be angrier and more irritable, but to make the conclusion that lack of sleep in teenagers causes criminal behavior in the future is absurd.

Posted by Nicolas Baltayan (Group A – Week 4)


  1. What really baffles me about this study is the random association being studied. To try and relate sleep deprivation 15 years before a crime was even committed is insane! Even if a correlation was found, which based off of the information given seems nearly impossible, that - in no way - proves causation. There are several factors, most of which you pointed out, that makes this entire study seem like a huge waste of time and resources. The two factors being observed appear to be completely independent from one another!

    Posted by Caitlin Lohr

    1. I couldn't agree more Caitlin. This was one of the the most random and non-convincing studies that I have ever seen. Every single part of it could essentially be connected to some other factor other than what was being studied. Complete and utter waste of time, you hit it directly on the head.

      Posted By Nicolas Baltayan (Group A)

  2. This entire experiment just sounds completely inaccurate and done very poorly! Everything just seems, as Caitlin said, very random. The first paragraph talks about how the teens were interviewed about their sleep deprivation, and then said that their teachers were also interviewed on how social these students were. What correlation does that have to do with sleep deprivation? (I guess more sleep deprived could POSSIBLY mean less social) Or if anything, I would say how social they are is suggestive of possibly other issues. Adrian also looked up the criminal records of the boys he studied 15 years later, but what occurred in their lives within that time frame? How can you pinpoint sleep deprivation as the problem at hand when you haven't been studying the students over the time being? A lot can go on within 15 basing his conclusions off of his initial studies done 15 years beforehand is just absurd!

    Posted by Natalie Nou

    1. Yes I absolutely agree. He just looked up criminal records 15 years later and just happened to come across some of the children he had studied prior. Also the fact that he just checked 15 years later without even following the kids lives is ridiculous as well, just as you said. So many things could have occurred such as a natural disaster, family tragedy, or other tragic situation that could have caused them to have to commit a crime to survive. Sleep didn't cause that, the need for survival did. So many things are wrong with the study, I'm glad more than one person agrees.

      Posted by Nicolas Baltayan (Group A)

  3. This study is extremely random and has no logical sequence whatsoever. As you said earlier there was definitely an issue with how the researchers selected the participants. Also why did they pick just boys? Also shouldn’t they have had a control group set up in place? Also teenagers in general need more sleep than the current school schedule allows for so obviously they are going to be tired! I also think that the research study failed to see the difference between correlation and causation. There could be so many other factors that caused the boys to commit crimes and going off of that point we don’t even know what the crimes really were! Over all a really poorly done study, but it was definitely interesting to see the flaws in it!

    Posted by: Kate Masterson (Group C)

  4. I completely agree with all the other comments because this study was not specific. They don't explain why boys were selected and then I believe it may have been a coincidence that some of the boys were later found to be part of the population of criminals. There really wasn't any comparison to other boys at a younger age and no background knowledge in their lifestyle.
    Posted by Ana Carolina Nepomuceno

  5. Quoted from the article: "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."

    Okay, what. This guy gets a gold medal in Olympic mental gymnastics. His entire conclusion revolves around this syllogism, which, if deconstructed to even the smallest degree, is clearly flawed in that it assumes that poor attention is a "proxy" for poor brain function. There are so many variables that can occlude this reasoning. For example, if someone is in class, not paying attention, it doesn't mean that they are displaying 'poor brain function', it just means that they are not engaged in the topic. They could be doodling or thinking about a personal project or anything they find more interesting instead, which does not correspond to 'poor brain function' (a definition that is, in itself, flawed due to its subjectivity).

    Posted by Owen Mulledy

  6. Wow! Just wow! This really is kind of bizarre because the correlation between these two subjects isn't really logical. It is important to look for the proper information in data and clearly this article/study did not possess it. It seems that the article did not include how the boys tested were chosen because there was most likely not a viable reason. A study like this has a lot of confounding factors which you've seemed to mention. For example, anxiety and depression could be considered confounding factors. A study like this, if done properly, could be very intruiging. However, the idea that these events are related to each other is unlikely in my opinion. I really enjoyed reading this! Some of the news we put out there is so completely bizarre!

    Posted by Anna Potorski