Teenage Afternoon Naps Lead to Adult Criminal Behavior

My lack of adult criminal behavior can be attributed to one simple fact.

It wasn't my parents, role models, or a basic desire to be a good person.

It's because I didn't take afternoon naps as a teenager. According to science, this has made all the difference.

When I was three or four, my mom insisted I take daily naps. She would make me lie down with her in the afternoon in the hopes that I would fall asleep. Instead, I would wait for her to fall asleep, creep out of the bedroom, and go watch TV until she woke up a couple hours later. She assumed I had fallen asleep and just woke up earlier than she did. I pulled that scam for a couple of years.

But I shudder to think what my future could have been like if I had been exposed to afternoon napping at a young age. I could be dead, in prison, or in politics.

According to a 2017 study by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania and University of York (UK), teenagers who take afternoon naps on a daily basis are four-and-a-half times more likely to be violent criminals 15 years later.

I'll admit to taking the occasional after school nap when I was in high school, which may explain why I occasionally drive over the speed limit. But I wasn't a daily napper, which has undoubtedly kept me from committing a string of bank robberies with a girl from my high school, Sleepy Maggie.
Hardened criminals in the making

Don't get me wrong. I love a good nap in the afternoon these days. My best naps are weekday afternoon naps. I even took one a couple of hours before I started writing this column. I can sleep right at my desk or sit on a couch and rest my eyes for 20 minutes.

Oh, I may get a bit grumpy if I sleep too long, so I have to keep my naps short for the good of society. If I ever start napping on a regular basis, I'm going to have to lock up my knives in 14 years. Otherwise, the occasional nap to recharge my batteries is still pretty safe, sort of like how you should drink a glass of red wine every day.

In fact, when done properly, a cat nap can do wonders for your productivity.

Take Salvador Dali, the surrealist painter, for example. Now that guy knew how to take a nap! According to nap historians, Dali would sit in his chair and hold a key in his hand above a metal plate on the floor. As he slept, he would become more and more relaxed, and the key would fall from his hand and clatter on the metal plate, which would wake him up. He would be refreshed and ready to continue his day.

And I'm sure his eccentric personality and aberrant behavior had nothing to do with his frequent napping.

Dr. Adrian Raine, a criminology and psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania, doesn't think this idea is so crazy, though.

"It's the first study to our knowledge to show that daytime sleepiness during teenage years are associated with criminal offending 14 years later," he said in a press release.

Ignoring the fact that "daytime sleepiness" is a singular noun (it "IS associated with criminal offending"), I was a little skeptical about the correlation between teenage afternoon drowsiness and doing crime. There seem to be a few steps missing. Or can we solve juvenile delinquency by giving at-risk teenagers a shot of espresso and a puppy?

According to the press release, Raine says a chain of events led to higher criminality.

"Is it the case that low social class and early social adversity results in daytime drowsiness, which results in inattention or brain dysfunction, which results 14 years later in crime? The answer's yes," he said in the statement. "Think of a flow diagram from A to B to C to D. Think of a chain."

Spoken like someone who still refers to criminals as "hooligans and ne'er-do-wells."

Shouldn't this theory consider a person's home life, influences by their parents and friends, and even the things they're exposed to on TV and in the movies?

Not at all, says the guy who apparently thinks Sherlock Holmes is a documentary.

Raine further clarified, "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."

So there you have it. We can reduce adult crimes by ensuring everyone gets a good night's sleep, isn't drowsy in the afternoon, and is mildly entertained in school, and everything will be as right as rain.

I just hope they don't do any research on the hazards of sleeping in on the weekends.

Photo credit: varjag (Pixabay, Creative Commons 0)

My new humor novel, Mackinac Island Nation, is finished and available on Amazon. You can get the Kindle version here or the paperback version here.