The sleep deprivation experienced by parents when a newborn arrives not only frazzles their nerves, but can also seriously harm their bank balance, a new study suggests.
Researchers from the London School of Economics (LSE) found that when parents are frequently worken by babies they are less likely to hold down a job, more likely to work shorter hours and consequently earn less than before the birth.
In fact, just one hour less sleep each night can reduce household income by up to 11 per cent, say the study authors, with the impact accumulating with more time spent awake.
Dr Joan Costa-Font, Associate Professor in Political Economic at the LSE, said new parents should factor in the lower earnings when they have children.
“Lack of sleep is responsible for human fatigue, and can undermine economic performance,” said Dr Costa-Font who presented the research at the Royal Society of Economics annual conference in Bristol on Wednesday.
“Sleep is often overlooked in economics models despite its obvious restorative effects on human health alongside its influence on brain plasticity and feelings of well-being.
“Having children reduces productivity and I think parents and government should factor this in, and hence they need to be compensated for it make it worthwhile.
“Lower income people are more strained by time and income. So they would be impacted the most.”
To find out the impact of sleep deprivation caused by crying babies, researchers looked at data from the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children which has been running since the 1990s, and involves more than 14,000 families.
It contains records of parental sleep and how much a child wakes up during the night, as well as employment status, the number of hours worked, job satisfaction and household income over time.
The study found a strong relationship between the number of times a child woke up in the night and income over time. As parents achieved less sleep at night, so their incomes plummeted.
Although parents expect their wealth to suffer when they have children, the new study suggests that lack of sleep is adding to the strained finances which come with raising a child.
“To our knowledge, this is the first paper that finds a link between child sleep quality and parental economic performance, “ added co author Dr Sarah Fleche.
“Fathers are somewhat less affected by child sleep problems. Low-skilled mothers instead experience a large decrease in employment and the number of hours worked when facing sleep deprivation.
The authors also pointed out that most people are also sleeping less on average, and so the population as a whole may suffer the economic impact of sleep deprivation.
A recent study estimated that the impact of lack of sleep on productivity and health of the British workforce costs businesses up to £40 billion each year, nearly two per cent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) .
Researchers from the non-profit research organisation RAND Europe calculated that if those who slept for under six hours a night increased their sleep to between six and seven hours a night, it could add £24 billion to the UK economy.
“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,” added Dr Costa-Font.
A poll of 2,000 British adults published earlier last year by the Royal Society for Public Health found that people in the UK slept an average of 6.8 hours.