With new drugs that potentially reduce or remove the need for sleep, a whole 1/3rd of our life, normally spent sleeping, could be used to engage into other activities. On the Sociological Speculation, several DPhil students at the Oxford University Department of Sociology look at the pros and cons of this change and ask, "do we want to grab this piece of low hanging fruit?"
There are also productivity boosts by lengthening the work day itself in terms of travel time, starting up computers and lunch breaks that we wouldn't expect to increase at the same rate as hours worked. The longer work day may also push forward globalization as workdays overlap for longer periods across time-zones.
Once again though, the gains go even deeper than this. Probably the largest productivity improvement of all will be in human capital accumulation and the returns an individual can expect from it. From the perspective of a student, a sleepless world is an increase of a third in expected working lifespan giving a longer time period for her to benefit from the investment she has made in her human capital. It also means she can potentially finish her education in a shorter time or use the additional waking hours in employment, reducing the opportunity cost of an extended university education.
The sleepless world may finally begin to reverse the age inequality in employment (at least temporarily). Young people will accumulate job experience at a faster rate through more hours of work experience. They may also be more willing to adopt the new drugs than older generations increasing their relative value as employees.
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