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Circadian Rhythms, Sleep, and Cognitive Skills: Evidence From an Unsleeping Giant


  • Osea Giuntella

    () (University of Pittsburgh)

  • Wei Han

    () (World Bank Office)

  • Fabrizio Mazzonna

    () (Universita’ della Svizzera Italiana)


Abstract This study analyzes the effects of sleep duration on cognitive skills and depression symptoms of older workers in urban China. Cognitive skills and mental health have been associated with sleep duration and are known to be strongly related to economic behavior and performance. However, causal evidence is lacking, and little is known about sleep deprivation in developing countries. We exploit the relationship between circadian rhythms and bedtime to identify the effects of sleep using sunset time as an instrument. Using the Chinese Health and Retirement Longitudinal Study, we show that a later sunset time significantly reduces sleep duration and that sleep duration increases cognitive skills and eases depression symptoms of workers aged 45 years and older. The results are driven by employed individuals living in urban areas, who are more likely to be constrained by rigid work schedules. We find no evidence of significant effects on the self-employed, non-employed, or farmers.

Suggested Citation

  • Osea Giuntella & Wei Han & Fabrizio Mazzonna, 2017. "Circadian Rhythms, Sleep, and Cognitive Skills: Evidence From an Unsleeping Giant," Demography, Springer;Population Association of America (PAA), vol. 54(5), pages 1715-1742, October.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:demogr:v:54:y:2017:i:5:d:10.1007_s13524-017-0609-8
    DOI: 10.1007/s13524-017-0609-8

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Billari, Francesco C. & Giuntella, Osea & Stella, Luca, 2017. "Broadband Internet, Digital Temptations, and Sleep," IZA Discussion Papers 11050, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).

    More about this item


    Sleep deprivation; Cognitive skills; Risky behaviors;

    JEL classification:

    • I12 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Health - - - Health Behavior


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