CHICAGO — A new study shows children living in areas plagued by violence have more trouble with sleep.
Those children also have higher levels of stress hormones for two days after a nearby violent incident, according to the study from researchers at Northwestern, DePaul and New York universities. That lack of sleep and heightened stress could negatively impact how well children do in school.
“Past research has found a link between violent crimes and performance on tests, but researchers haven’t been able to say why crime affects academic performance,” said the study's lead author, Jennifer Heissel, according to ScienceDaily. “Both sleep and cortisol are connected to the ability to learn and perform academic tasks; our study identifies a pathway by which violent crime may get under the skin to affect academic performance.”
The study looked at 82 children going to diverse public schools in a Midwestern city. The city was not identified per a confidentiality agreement, according to "Chicago Tonight."
The children's sleep was tracked, and their saliva tested three times a day to measure their cortisol.
Researchers found the children went to bed later at night after a violent crime happened near their home, which usually resulted in them not sleeping as long as they would after a normal day. The children's cortisol levels were also higher than normal the day after a crime — "a pattern that previous research suggests might reflect the body's anticipation of more stress the day following a crime," according to Science Daily.
The effects were heightened when the crime was a homicide, though assault and sexual assault also affected the children, according to ScienceDaily.