Scientists link broadband internet access to sleep deprivation

People with a digital subscriber line (DSL) access tend to sleep 25 minutes less than those without DSL. These people are also less likely to get enough sleep (7 to 9 hours) or to feel satisfied with the quality of their sleep. According  researchers at Bocconi University, Italy, and the University of Pittsburgh, USA, who produced the findings, the effect may be explained by time constraints in the morning and by the use of electronic devices in the evening. Their use throughout the day doesn’t effect the quality of sleep
Researchers crisscrossed broadband access data in Germany to surveys where individuals reported their sleep duration and quality. In the past studies have analyzed the effects of broadband access on electoral outcomes, social capital, fertility and crimes. This is the first time that scientists have examined the causal effect of the access to high-speed Internet on sleeping behavior.

Poor sleep is a major public health hazard, which some scholars deem as the most prevalent risky behavior in modern society. In developed countries, this is an increasing problem as more and more people forgo the recommend 7-9 hours of sleep, exposing themselves to detrimental outcomes on health and cognitive performance. In Germany alone, 200,000 working days are lost each year due to insufficient sleep, translating in an economic loss of $60bln, or about 1.6% of the country’s GDP, according to a report of RAND Corporation.

The research team’s conclusion was that access to high-speed Internet reduces both sleep duration and sleep satisfaction in individuals that face time constraints in the morning for work or family reasons.
“Individuals with DSL access tend to sleep 25 minutes less than their counterparts without DSL Internet. They are significantly less likely to sleep between 7 and 9 hours, the amount recommended by the scientific community, and are less likely to be satisfied with their sleep,” said Francesco Billari, Professor of Demography at Bocconi University, Milan.

The increased use of electronic devices in the bedroom before sleep is considered one of the main factors contributing to the sleep deprivation epidemic and access to high-speed internet promotes excessive electronic media use.
“Taken together, our findings suggest that there may be substantial detrimental effects of broadband internet on sleep duration and quality through its effects on technology use near bedtime. High-speed Internet makes it very enticing to stay up later to play video games, surf the web and spend time online on social media. Given the growing awareness of the importance of sleep quantity and quality for our health and productivity, providing more information on the risks associated with technology use in the evening may promote healthier sleep and have non-negligible effects on individual welfare and well-being. More research is needed to understand the behavioral mechanisms underlying Internet addiction and how to nudge individuals into healthier sleep practices,” the researchers concluded in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

A decade of digital dependency

The average person in the UK spends more than a day a week online, according to “A decade of digital dependency”,
a new report released by Ofcom, the communications regulator in the UK.

According to the report, people in the UK spend on average online  24 hours a week, twice as long as 10 years ago, with one in five of all adults spending as much as 40 hours a week.

This is the result of the rise in use by those aged 16 to 24, who average 34.3 hours a week on the internet. For the first time, women are spending more time online than men. They spend half an hour a week longer online than men of the same age.

Ofcom associates the surge in time online to the rise of smartphones, now used by 78 percent of the population compared with just 17 percent in 2008, when the first iPhone was launched.

Fifteen percent said smartphones made them feel they were always at work, 54 percent admitted they interrupted face-to-face conversations with friends and family and 43 percent admitted spending too much time online.

More than a third felt stressed and “cut off” without their phone and 29 percent “lost without it”  and one in 10 said taking a break from their phone was “liberating” or made them more productive.

 

Reactions to be unable to connect to the Internet

(graphics: ofcom.org.uk)

Almost half of adults said they would miss it more than TV (28 percent) and a desktop or laptop computer (10 percent), the opposite of ten years ago, when 52 percent said the TV was more important than the mobile phone (13 percent). Among 16 to 24-year-olds, 72 percent now say the smartphone is the device they would miss most.

Social media addiction increases the risk of ADHD

Nonstop notifications from social media websited cause young people to have problems to concentrate for long periods of time, researchers said.

“More frequent use of digital media may be associated with development of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder Symptoms,” said Professor of Preventative Medicine, Adam Leventhal of University of Southern California, in a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. 

Further research is needed to see whether the association is caused by social media alone but scientists suggested that the distraction and instant gratification  could aggravate the disorder.

The scientists asked 2,800 15 and 16-year-olds at 10 different schools in Los Angeles County to fill out surveys about ADHD symptoms and their social media use.

The ADHD survey asked students to evaluate whether they related to statements like “I’m easily distracted” or “I don’t listen when spoken to directly.”

The students also filled out a questionnaire ranking how often they used 14 different types of digital media, including social media sites, online games and streaming films. Students who already had ADHD symptoms were eliminated from the study. The remaining 2,600 students retook the same surveys several times over the next two years.The 495 teens who reported infrequent use of digital media had a 4.6 per cent chance of reporting ADHD symptoms. That figure almost doubled to 9.5 per cent for the 114 students who reported using seven of the 14 digital media platforms frequently.