Sleep and its association with aggression among prisoners: Quantity or quality?

Barker, Lyndsie Fiona, Ireland, Jane Louise orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5117-5930, Chu, Simon orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-8921-4942 and Ireland, Carol Ann orcid iconORCID: 0000-0001-7310-2903 (2016) Sleep and its association with aggression among prisoners: Quantity or quality? International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 47 . pp. 115-121. ISSN 0160-2527

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Objective: The current paper aims to examine the association between self-reported sleep quality and quantity and how these relate to aggression motivation and hostile cognition in a male prisoner sample. The cognitive component of sleep, namely perception, is consequently a variable of particular interest and one neglected by previous research.
Methods: Two independent studies are presented. The first comprised 95 adult male prisoners who completed a sleep quality index along with measures of implicit and explicit aggression. The second study extended this to consider aggression motivation and hostile attribution biases using a sample of 141 young male adult prisoners.
Results: In study one, sleep quantity and indicators of sleep quality were found not to associate with aggression whereas the perception of poor sleep did; those perceiving poor sleep quality were more likely than those perceiving good sleep to report they had perpetrated aggression in the previous week and to report higher levels of implicit aggression. Study two found that while increased indicators of poor sleep quality were associated with lower prosocial attribution tendencies and higher levels of reactive and proactive aggression, sleep quantity was not associated. The perception of poor quality sleep was important; those perceiving poor sleep were more likely to report higher levels of reactive and proactive aggression than those reporting good sleep.
Conclusions: Collectively the studies highlight the importance of accounting for the perception of sleep quality as an important cognitive component in understanding the association between sleep and aggression.

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