The relationship between sleeping problems and aggression, anger, and impulsivity in a population of juvenile and young offenders

J Adolesc Health. 2006 Jun;38(6):649-55. doi: 10.1016/j.jadohealth.2005.05.027.


Purpose: The current study examines both the quantity and quality of sleep reported by male adolescents detained in prison, with a focus on exploring the association between the quantity and quality of sleep with aggression, impulsivity, or anger. This represents a novel area of study not yet explored among incarcerated male adolescents.

Method: One hundred eighty-four offenders took part; 104 young (average age 19 years) and 80 juvenile (average age 16 years). All completed a questionnaire exploring sleeping problems, and measures assessing aggression, anger, and impulsivity.

Results: Aggression was found to relate both to the quantity and quality of sleep reported, with reduced quantity and quality predicted by increased overall aggression. Across aggression subscales, only increased hostility was predictive of reduced current hours of sleep and increased problems in sleep quality. Apnea risk scores were not predicted by aggression, anger, or impulsivity. Differences in sleep behavior before and during prison were demonstrated, with evidence for increased poor sleeping habits within detention. No differences were observed between young and juvenile offenders.

Conclusions: This study suggests a potential relationship between aggression and sleep among an incarcerated adolescent male sample, highlighting in particular a role for hostility. The findings are discussed in relationship to implications for treatment and directions for future research.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior
  • Adult
  • Aggression / psychology*
  • Anger*
  • Health Surveys
  • Hostility
  • Humans
  • Impulsive Behavior
  • Male
  • Prisoners / psychology*
  • Sleep Initiation and Maintenance Disorders / psychology*