Dr. Heather Schofield is an Assistant Professor in the Perelman School of Medicine and The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. She is an economist studying development, health, and behavioral economics. Much of her research is based in India. Dr. Schofield completed her Ph.D. in Business Economics, MS in Global Health and Population, and BA in Economics at Harvard University.
(2021). “The Economic Consequences of Increasing Sleep Among the Urban Poor.” Accepted into Quarterly Journal of Economics
The urban poor in developing countries face challenging living environments, which may interfere with good sleep. Using actigraphy to measure sleep objectively, we find that low-income adults in Chennai, India sleep only 5.5 hours per night on average despite spending 8 hours in bed.
Their sleep is highly interrupted, with sleep efficiency—sleep per time in bed—comparable to those with disorders such as sleep apnea or insomnia. A randomized three-week treatment providing information, encouragement, and improvements to home sleep environments increased sleep duration by 27 minutes per night by inducing more time in bed.
Contrary to expert predictions and a large body of sleep research, increased nighttime sleep had no detectable effects on cognition, productivity, decision-making, or well-being, and led to small decreases in labor supply.
In contrast, short afternoon naps at the workplace improved an overall index of outcomes by 0.12 standard deviations, with significant increases in productivity, psychological well-being, and cognition, but a decrease in work time.