Sleep Deprivation Causally Linked To Internet Access: Study

A new study investigating the causal link between high-speed internet access and sleep deprivation now suggests that the technology does indeed lead to less downtime for users. In fact, the research indicates that around 25 minutes are lost per user for those with access to DSL internet. That's according to a European Research Council-funded study titled 'Broadband internet, digital temptations, and sleep' and published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization. While that isn't necessarily a lot of sleep lost due to technology, sleep satisfaction appears to be affected as well and the demographic split in the results isn't even across the board. Moreover, DSL doesn't seem to be the sole root cause despite being at the core of what the researchers from Italy's Bocconi University and the U.S. University of Pittsburgh and IZA set to discover. High-speed internet access and associated activities appear to be the more general underlying cause of sleep deprivation.

As shown in the study, high-speed connections increase the use of 'digital devices' such as smartphones, gaming devices, or other media. Individuals with access to that flow of data tend to use the technologies near bedtime and delay falling asleep in order to continue using those devices. The effects of artificial light exposure also seem to be a key factor affecting the quality of sleep in general. In terms of demographics, the study found that the 30 to 59-year-old demographic showed a higher correlation between smartphone use and lack of sleep, with shorter sleep duration in that group than in others. The researchers posit that users under the age of 30 simply can't compensate for the consequences of a later bedtime with regard to work and family 'constraints.'

Although not conclusive without further research, the study appears to have a strong grounding. Namely, the researchers took advantage of a geographical split in the development of Germany's high-speed broadband internet access caused by historical differences in pre-existing infrastructure. Effectively, the study used the portions of the country that doesn't have high-speed broadband access readily available as a control group. Meanwhile, the results themselves are hardly surprising since prior research has drawn connections between increasing availability of access and technology-based addictions. On the other hand, companies such as Google have already begun to seek solutions aimed directly at addressing the problem. So there's is a chance that it won't become too big of an issue even as the technologies surrounding a connected lifestyle continue to advance.

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