Bullies Apparently Have Trouble Sleeping at Night

Filed under: In The News, Bullying

bullies

No wonder bullies are grumpy! Credit: Getty Images

You have to wonder how school bullies sleep at night.

Actually (heh heh), they don't. Researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School say bullies are twice as likely to have sleep problems than their victims and nicer kids in general.

Call it God's little payback. Then again, it could be a chicken-or-the-egg conundrum. Maybe if bullies got more sleep, they wouldn't be so darn crabby.

Researchers studied the young and the restless among elementary schools in Ypsilanti, Mich., and found the bullies were particularly restless.

"What this study does is raise the possibility that poor sleep, from whatever cause, can indeed play into bullying or other aggressive behaviors -- a major problem that many schools are trying to address," Louise O'Brien, an assistant professor at the university's Sleep Disorders Center, says in a press release. "Our schools do push the importance of healthy eating and exercise, but this study highlights that good sleep is just as essential to a healthy lifestyle."

O'Brien says the study shows sleepiness is the biggest driver of the behavior problems. Then again, she adds, lack of sleep could be the result of dysfunctional family lives.

So again, the question remains: Is lack of sleep a symptom or a cause of bullying?

"We know that the pre-frontal cortex area of the brain is sensitive to sleep deprivation, and this area is also related to emotional control, decision making and social behavior," O'Brien says. "So impairment in the prefrontal cortex may lead to aggression or disruptive behavior, delinquency or even substance abuse."

Does that mean the way to deal with bullies is to put them to sleep?

As tempting as that may sound, O'Brien has other suggestions.

"The good news is that some of these behaviors can be improved," she says. "Sleep-disordered breathing can be treated, and schools or parents can encourage kids to get more sleep."

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.