Sleep Disruption and Aggression: Implications for Violence and Its Prevention

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Objective: Although aggression and violence remain a perennial social problem, the role that sleep-wake regulation plays in social behavior like aggression has been severely neglected. In response, we aim to integrate cross-disciplinary evidence to suggest that various forms of sleep disruption release aggressive impulses and fuel violence. Method: In a narrative review, we outline 3 pathways of influence from sleep disruption to aggression that involve compromised affective, cognitive, and response-control processes. We also consider the reciprocal influences between sleep disruption and aggression, as well as review 3 domains where sleep disruption may have especially important effects on aggression and violence and provide opportunities for intervention. Results: The review reveals that sleep problems may be important contributors to aggression, especially in the domains involving intimate partner violence, school and cyber bullying, and institutional aggression within psychiatric and correctional institutions. Conclusion: Reviewed evidence has essential theoretical and applied importance for understanding and preventing conflict and violence in society. Finally, it calls for much-needed research targeting the role of sleep in aggression and social behavior.

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