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Insomnia, biological clock, and the bedtime decision: an economic perspective


  • Gideon Yaniv

    (College of Management and National Insurance Institute, Israel)


While insomnia can be a symptom of numerous mental and physical illnesses, it is frequently diagnosed as a sleep disorder in its own right, caused mainly by stressful life events or by non-synchronization of individuals' biological sleep-wake cycle with the one they choose to practice. Because of irregular work schedules, late-night entertainment, or rapid crossing of several time zones, individuals might retire to bed earlier or later than their biological bedtime, experiencing difficulties in falling asleep. The present paper develops a simple economic model of the bedtime decision, viewing the individual as a rational decision-maker who determines her insomnia level through consciously weighing the cost and benefit of deviating from her biological bedtime. The model is then used to examine the individual's response to stress, yielding a prediction which is consistent with observed behavior, although not with sleep therapists' recommendations. Finally, the model is applied to the case of transmeridian flights, explaining jet lag as a rational adjustment to a misalignment between the individual's slow-to-adapt internal clock and her external environment. Copyright © 2003 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Suggested Citation

  • Gideon Yaniv, 2004. "Insomnia, biological clock, and the bedtime decision: an economic perspective," Health Economics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(1), pages 1-8.
  • Handle: RePEc:wly:hlthec:v:13:y:2004:i:1:p:1-8
    DOI: 10.1002/hec.810

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Hamermesh, Daniel S & Soss, Neal M, 1974. "An Economic Theory of Suicide," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 82(1), pages 83-98, Jan.-Feb..
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    3. Biddle, Jeff E & Hamermesh, Daniel S, 1990. "Sleep and the Allocation of Time," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 98(5), pages 922-943, October.
    4. Grossman, Michael, 1972. "On the Concept of Health Capital and the Demand for Health," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 80(2), pages 223-255, March-Apr.
    5. Becker, Gary S & Murphy, Kevin M, 1988. "A Theory of Rational Addiction," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 96(4), pages 675-700, August.
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    Cited by:

    1. Eleonora Patacchini & Xiaodong Liu & Edoardo Rainone, 2013. "The Allocation of Time in Sleep: A Social Network Model with Sampled Data," Center for Policy Research Working Papers 162, Center for Policy Research, Maxwell School, Syracuse University.
    2. Yaniv, Gideon, 2008. "Obsessive-compulsive disorder and behavioral therapy: A rational-choice perspective," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 55(3), pages 405-415, May.
    3. repec:bpj:bejeap:v:17:y:2017:i:2:p:37:n:5 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Christian Pfeifer, 2015. "Unfair Wage Perceptions and Sleep: Evidence from German Survey Data," SOEPpapers on Multidisciplinary Panel Data Research 789, DIW Berlin, The German Socio-Economic Panel (SOEP).

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