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07th May 2019

Sleepless babies and children can ‘significantly decrease’ parental income, claims study

Alison Bough

How much is a good night’s sleep worth to you? The answer is more than you might think…

Parents who manage to get an extra bit of kip could boost their income by up to 11 percent, according to a new study from the world-famous London School of Economics.

Economists Joan Costa-Font and Sarah Flèche have found that sleepless children can “significantly decrease” parental income, the number of hours parents work, and even their participation in the work force. However, just one extra hour of sleep per night for mums tends to raise parental income by up to 11 percent, and was also associated with a seven-percentage point gain in hours worked and four-percentage point increase in employment.

The economists’ findings won’t come as any surprise to exhausted mums and dads all over the world; sleep deprivation has a  negative effect on labour market performance. No shock there, but the authors say that their study is the first of its kind to back up what parents already know with numerical data.

good night's sleep

Costa-Font and Flèche used figures from the UK’s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), which follows a 14,000 families from a child’s birth to age 25. The ALSPAC keeps records on parental and child sleep, household incomes and employment outcomes. The research duo used the survey to look for connections between family time spent sleeping and parents’ earnings and performance at work.

They found a strong link between the number of times a child wakes up at night and parents’ income over time, with higher numbers of night-time awakenings leading to reduced earnings.

Dads were “somewhat less affected” than mums by the frequent waking of their little ones (ahem, we’re saying nothing). Mums in lower-skilled jobs were more likely than high-skilled mums to cut down their hours worked because of sleep deprivation.

The study’s authors say their findings are important for employment policies:

“The general message is that sleep is a major determinant of employment outcomes that needs attention in designing employment policies.

“The number of hours the average person sleeps has declined over the past century, and we still ignore its effects on economic activity and economic performance.”