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The New Indian Express: Are the Urban Poor Sleep Deprived?

The principal investigators Gautam Rao of Harvard University, Frank Schilbach of Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Heather Schofield of University of Pennsylvania, who have been measuring sleep using wrist-watch like devices called ‘Actigraphs’ which scientifically measure sleep without interfering in individuals lives, have found that the poor in Chennai get only five hours to five-and-a-half hours of sleep despite spending around eight hours trying to sleep. The project which is now in final stages has found that intervention to improve sleep by providing financial incentives helps provide additional 45 minutes for the individual. It is learnt that for the study a total of 450 to 500 low-income adults from housing board tenements were selected to work full time for one month in a data entry job. The individuals had to come to office six days per week for five to nine hours per day. They worked on data entry task and completed a survey to assess self reported sleep and covariates outcome of interest (well being) and make a daily decision of whether to save money at the office at a favourable interest rate. The research team collaborated closely with slum clearance board, which provided guidance regarding neighbourhoods for recruitment and animators to recruit and retain participants from the slums. The researchers focused on two different interventions to ensure proper sleep. The first was by improving night time sleep through sleeping aids, incentives and encouragement and second by providing a comfortable space for a 30-minute afternoon nap at work at the data entry office. The study will help improve understanding of the role of sleep deprivation in the lives of the poor and help estimate the impact of improved sleep on economic outcomes, decision making, cognitive function, health outcomes and functions, said officials in IFMR. Read more in The New Indian Express.