The Economic Consequences of Increasing Sleep Among the Urban Poor

116 Pages Posted: 11 Feb 2020 Last revised: 13 Feb 2020

See all articles by Pedro Bessone

Pedro Bessone

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)

Gautam Rao

Harvard University - Department of Economics

Frank Schilbach

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Economics, Finance, Accounting (EFA)

Heather Schofield

Harvard University

Mattie Toma

Harvard University

Date Written: February 2020

Abstract

This paper measures sleep among the urban poor in India and estimates the economic returns to increased sleep. Adults in Chennai have strikingly low quantity and quality of sleep relative to typical guidelines: despite spending 8 hours in bed, they achieve only 5.6 hours per night of sleep, with 32 awakenings per night. A three-week treatment providing information, encouragement, and sleep-related items increased sleep quantity by 27 minutes per night without improving sleep quality. Increased night sleep had no detectable effects on cognition, productivity, decision-making, or psychological and physical well-being, and led to small decreases in labor supply and thus earnings. In contrast, offering high-quality naps at the workplace increased productivity, cognition, psychological well-being, and patience. Taken together, the returns to increased night sleep are low, at least at the low-quality levels typically available in home environments in Chennai. We find suggestive evidence that higher-quality sleep improves important economic and psychological outcomes.

Suggested Citation

Bessone, Pedro and Rao, Gautam and Schilbach, Frank and Schofield, Heather and Toma, Mattie, The Economic Consequences of Increasing Sleep Among the Urban Poor (February 2020). NBER Working Paper No. w26746, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3535336

Pedro Bessone (Contact Author)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
50 Memorial Drive
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Gautam Rao

Harvard University - Department of Economics ( email )

Littauer Center
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Frank Schilbach

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) - Economics, Finance, Accounting (EFA) ( email )

77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139-4307
United States

Heather Schofield

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Mattie Toma

Harvard University ( email )

1875 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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