The Impact of Violent Crime on Sleep and Stress


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The Impact of Violent Crime on Sleep and Stress

By Emma Adam and Jennifer Heissel 

Overview: The United States registered nearly 1.25 million violent crimes in 2016. Strong evidence indicates that children exposed to violence in and around their neighborhoods suffer academically, but the mechanisms that explain how such crimes get “under the skin” are poorly understood. Jennifer Heissel (SESP PhD 17), who is on the faculty of the Naval Postgraduate School and a former IPR graduate research assistant, IPR developmental psychobiologist Emma Adam, and their colleagues studied sleep and the stress hormone cortisol in adolescents exposed to violent crimes in their communities. They found that adolescents’ sleep and cortisol patterns were disrupted the night and day following nearby violence, and that more violent crimes led to more serious disruptions. Disruption of both sleep and cortisol have been linked to poorer academic performance.