Economics of Sleep, Part 2 | WBEZ
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The Economics of Sleep, Part 2

In our previous episode, we primarily discussed the health implications of sleep. This time, we look at the economic impact. One big takeaway: if you sleep more, you will likely earn more money. How do we know this? Thanks to a fascinating paper by Matthew Gibson and Jeffrey Shrader, called “Time Use and Productivity: The Wage Returns to Sleep.” As Gibson tells us, economists have traditionally not paid too much attention to sleep — in part because good data were hard to come by.

So Gibson and Shrader looked at similar populations that lie at opposite ends of time zones — for instance, Huntsville, Alabama (on the eastern edge of the Central Time Zone), and Amarillo, Texas (on the western edge). Even though cities like this are on the same clock, the western city gets roughly an hour more of sunlight – which means that people there tend to go to bed later. But they have to wake up the same time as people in the eastern city – so, on average, they get less sleep. Gibson and Shrader could then look at the wage data in places like this to see how an extra dose of sleep affects earnings.

But there’s much more in this episode. Among the many voices you’ll hear:

+ Lauren Hale, a sleep researcher at Stony Brook University and a board member of theNational Sleep Foundation. In last week’s episode, she told us she’d keep all computer screens out of her bedroom for a week and see how she slept. This week, she tells us the result.

+ Dan Hamermesh, a professor of economics at Royal Holloway University of London, emeritus professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and one of the first scholars to consider the economics of sleep:

+ David Dinges, a professor of psychology and psychiatry at Penn, who tells us about his experimental research looking into the cumulative costs of sleep loss.

+ Jens Bonke, an economist and senior researcher at the Rockwool Foundation in Copenhagen, whose research (gated) examines whether early birds really do get more worms. Short answer: yes!

+ Heather Schofield, a postdoc fellow at the Center for Global Development, who is conducting experimental research in India, where there are a lot of barriers to good sleep.

+ Dan Pardi, CEO of the health consultancy Dan’s Plan, who has all kinds of advice about how we can all sleep a bit better, and in a style that suits our individual metabolisms.

What’s the Freakonomics prescription for a good night’s sleep? A good pair of earplugs and some Goldberg Variations, preferably played by Glenn Gould.

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