Claims my Russian wife won’t even deign to laugh at

If you get up late in the morning on weekends, you must think sleep is very valuable.  And if sleep is very valuable, that means we should go to bed early.  Because if you go to bed early, you always have the option of sleeping later — that is sleeping more — and getting even more sleep than if you had gone to bed late.  (You can’t just shift your sleep into any hours block you want, given the coordination issues.)  And if sleep is very valuable, the option to sleep more must be valuable as well.  Therefore it’s time to go to bed.  Now.  Early.

No response was forthcoming.  The argument, of course, gets at whether "sleep" or "postponement" enters the utility function as the final good.  There are some economic papers on procrastination, but overall postponement, or for that matter its closely allied cousin "preemption," is an understudied topic in economics.


Well this is a subject I have considerable expertise in. I can assure you that the utility here is not sleep per se, but the pleasure of not getting out of bed, of going back to sleep, and the avoidance of the discomfort of waking up early. None of this utility would be had by simply going to sleep early. Due to the way the biological clock works, sleeping in late means waking up at a later hour than usual.

I think procrastination is more relevant in the case of going to sleep early, where that is probably a big factor. But the bottom line is that we postpone things we don't want to do, and we often don't want to go to sleep early.

This advice assumes that you can fall asleep when you want to.

You tend to sleep when your opportunity cost is the lowest. On weekends there is an active nightlife and a dull morning. This is the antithesis of the weekdays, so you redistribute your hours of sleep accordingly.

"If you get up late in the morning on weekends" is much too broad. As previous comments have pointed out, if you're sleeping the same amount, but prefer the activities available at 11 PM to those available at 8 AM, there's no mystery. Nor, I would argue, is there anything unexplained if you shift sleep from the week (when you have many conflicting demands on your time) to the weekend (when you don't). Then there's the issue of whether you can simply choose any hours to sleep that you want to, or whether your body seems to have preferences when it comes to a sleep routine.

So a more modest claim would be something like "If you can set your own hours and sleep as long as you wish during the week, and have no preference between night-time and early-morning activities, and you still choose to sleep extra hours on the weekend, then you must think sleep is very valuable and should go to bed early."

Most people have a circadian rhythm of around 25 hours - not 24. Left to their own devices, without sunlight cycles or work cycles, they would go to bed later and later and wake up later and later each day. The marginal utility of an hour of sleep at bedtime is not the same as the marginal utility of an hour of sleep in the morning - at bedtime sleep doesn't always come easily, and it can be boring lying around waiting to feel sleepy. In the morning - and not every morning, just some - when the body's clock urges one on to grab more sleep - the utility of that extra hour is substantial. There is no equivalence, for most people, between the pleasure or benefits of going to bed an hour early, and waking up an hour late.'s 130pm and I just woke up. Good timing for such a post!

Actually, if you wake up late on weekend mornings, it could just mean you don't value the things to do on a Saturday/Sunday morning. I'd rather sleep a bit more than catch Meet the Press. The only reason someone would think sleep is valuable if you sleep in is someone that thinks weekend morning activities are valuable. That population is probably very small.

I'd say the opposite is in fact true! I hate waking up, but I love going to bed LATE. In fact, the two are usually related! I wake up feeling angry and frustrated, telling myself "Tonight, go to bed on time!!!" ... Yet when the night comes... I'd rather watch the news and have a scotch.

Emmanuel Levinas has a nice essay on weariness and indolence, and its phenomology (how it is experienced), and takes it as a relationship to existence ; which offers some philosophical insights, but who knows, maybe some economic ones too.

``The Relationshp with Existence and the Instant'' in _Existence and Existents_ (trans Alphonso Lingis)

From a sleep medicine point of view, keeping to a set schedule is important in maintaining adequate sleep hygiene. Without good sleep hygiene, there is a tendency towards insomnia. Older people are especially vulnerable to this as there are more internal factors driving arousals out of sleep.

Female Brain's comments above are so dead on.
Actually, they make me sad, because there are so many males commenting on these boards, and so few females. The site is enriched by the greater depth different perspectives provide, particularly from the other 50% of the population.

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