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Experimenting the working poor in India has no effect on increasing sleep at night.

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Subjectively, getting more sleep seems to offer great benefits: many people feel that it gives them increased energy, emotional control, and improved well-being. increase. However, a new study co-authored by MIT economists suggests that complicating the situation and increasing sleep alone is not always sufficient to bring about these fascinating improvements.


This study is based on a characteristic field experiment of low-income workers in Chennai, India. There, researchers were able to study home residents and increase their participation in their normal daily lives. sleep It takes about 30 minutes per night and you can make a huge profit.Still, sleeping more at night did not improve people’s sleep Work productivity, Income, financial choice, well-being, and even blood pressure. Obviously, the only thing it did was reduce the number of hours they worked.

“Surprisingly, these nocturnal sleep interventions did not have a positive effect on any of the results we measured,” said a new paper detailing the findings, an economist at MIT. The author, Frank Sylbach, said.

There are many more problems. For one thing, researchers have found that a short nap can help with productivity and well-being. Participants also tended to sleep at night in difficult situations, with many interruptions. The findings leave the potential to help not only increase the total amount of sleep in the lower grades, but also help people sleep better.

“In Chennai, people’s sleep quality is so poor in these situations that adding poor quality sleep may not provide the benefits of 30 minutes of sleep when adding quality sleep. It’s possible, “Schilbach suggests.

The paper “Economic Impact of Increased Sleep in Urban Poor People” was published in the August issue. Quarterly magazine of economics.. The author of the treatise is Pedro Bessone Ph.D. Recently graduated from MIT’s Faculty of Economics in ’21. Gautam Rao, Associate Professor of Economics, Harvard University. Sylbach, Associate Professor of Career Development at MIT. Heather Scofield, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine and Wharton School. A PhD candidate in economics at Mattie Toma Harvard University.

Sleep in a rickshaw

Development economist Schilbach states that the origin of this study came from other studies done by him and his colleagues in environments such as Chennai. Theme.

“In Chennai, you can see people sleeping in rickshaws,” says Sylbach, a faculty member of the Abdul Latif Jameel Institute for Poverty Behavior (J-PAL) at MIT. “Often 4-5 people are sleeping in the same loud and noisy room. You can see people sleeping between the roads next to the highway. It’s very hot even at night and there are a lot of mosquitoes. Chennai, you can find potential irritating or harmful sleep factors. “

To carry out the study, researchers equipped Chennai residents with devices such as actigraphs and wristwatches that infer sleep status from body movements. This allowed the team to study the people at home. Many other sleep studies have observed people in a laboratory environment.

In this survey, we surveyed 452 people in a month. Some people have been given encouragement and tips for a better sleep. Others have received financial incentives to sleep more. Some members of both of these groups took a nap to see what the effect was.

Participants in the study were also given the task of data entry in a flexible amount of time during the experiment, allowing researchers to closely monitor the effects of sleep on workers’ production and income. rice field.

Overall, participants in the Chennai study took an average of about 5.5 hours of sleep per night before the intervention and added an average of 27 minutes of sleep per night. However, to get those 27 minutes, participants were in bed for an extra 38 minutes per night. This illustrates the difficult sleep situation of participants who wake up 31 times a night on average.

“The important thing that stands out is that people sleep less efficiently, which means their sleep is heavily fragmented,” says Schilbach. “They have very little time to experience what is believed to be a deep sleep recovery effect …. They spent more time in bed, so people’s sleep increased due to the intervention, but their The quality of sleep did not change. “

As a result, across various indicators, the people studied did not experience any positive changes after getting more sleep. In fact, as Schilbach points out, “There is one negative effect on working hours. The more time you spend in bed, the less time you spend on other things in your life.”

On the other hand, study participants who were allowed to take a nap during a data entry job performed better in some measured categories.

“We found clear evidence that naps improve various outcomes such as productivity, cognitive function, and psychological well-being, as opposed to nighttime sleep interventions, and some evidence of savings,” Schilbach said. Says. “These two interventions have different effects.”

However, naps only increased total income when compared to workers who took breaks instead. The nap did not increase the total income of the workers. Taking a nap increased productivity per minute, but actually worked less time.

“Nap isn’t just about paying for yourself,” says Schilbach. “People who take a nap don’t actually stay in the office for a long time, probably because they are doing other things such as caring for their family. Taking a nap for about 30 minutes reduces working hours by nearly 30 minutes. It’s almost a one-to-one ratio, and as a result, the income of the people in that group is low. “

Value sleep as a purpose in itself

Sylbach says he hopes other researchers will delve into some of the further questions raised in this study. For example, further research may attempt to alter the sleeping environment of low-income workers to see if better sleep quality makes a difference, as well as increased sleep.

Sylbach also suggests that it may be important to better understand the psychological challenges faced by poor people regarding sleep.

“Poverty is very stressful, which can interfere with people’s sleep,” he points out. “Coping with how environmental and psychological factors affect Sleep quality It’s worth considering. “

In addition, actigraph technology and other devices should be able to increase the number of studies that capture people’s sleep patterns not only in the medical setting, but also in normal home environments, Schilbach said. I am.

“There isn’t much work to study sleep in people’s daily lives,” says Schilbach. “And I really want people to focus on valuable results and study sleep more in developing and poor countries.”

Sylbach says he is interested in continuing his research on sleep in the United States, not just India, where he has done much of his research. In any case, he says, we should take sleep issues seriously as an element of poverty alleviation research and public policy, and as an important element of well-being in and of itself.

“Sleep may be important as a means of increasing productivity and other types of choices people make,” Schilbach says. “But I think it’s important to get a good night’s sleep. It’s important to be able to sleep well at night without worrying. The poverty index is about income and physical consumption. But now it’s about sleep. Now that we can measure more accurately, a good night’s sleep should be part of a more comprehensive measure of people’s well-being, hoping that is where we end up. increase.”


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For more information:
Pedro Bessone et al, the economic impact of increasing sleep among the poor in urban areas, Quarterly magazine of economics (2021). DOI: 10.1093 / qje / qjab013

Quote: Working Poor experimented in India, night sleep obtained from https: //phys.org/news/2021-07-poor-india-impact-night.html on July 29, 2021 (2021) No impact from (July 29) was seen.

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Experimenting the working poor in India has no effect on increasing sleep at night.

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