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NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
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The Economic Consequences of Increasing Sleep Among the Urban Poor

Pedro Bessone, Gautam Rao, Frank Schilbach, Heather Schofield, Mattie Toma

NBER Working Paper No. 26746
Issued in February 2020
NBER Program(s):Development Economics, Health Economics, Labor Studies

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.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26746

 
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