Widespread internet access is causing mass sleep deprivation, study suggests

We’re familiar with a lot of the arguments about why high-speed internet is among the greatest inventions in human history. But the internet can be bad for you, too — and, no, we’re not just talking about the howling post-apocalyptic wasteland that is the YouTube comments section.

In a new study, funded by the European Research Council, researchers establish what they claim is a causal link between broadband internet access and sleep deprivation. Specifically, they claim that our use of various internet-connected devices is costing those of us with high-speed internet up to 25 minutes of sleep per night, compared to those without it. That’s not good news.

“Internet addiction and technology use near bedtime are often blamed as a major cause of the sleep deprivation epidemic,” Luca Stella, a researcher at the Carlo F. Dondena Center for Research on Social Dynamics and Public Policy at Italy’s Bocconi University, told Digital Trends. “Yet the empirical evidence on this relationship is still limited. In our study, we first show descriptive evidence that the use of digital devices at night is correlated with shorter sleep duration. Then, exploiting differences in the access to high-speed internet caused by the pre-existing telephone infrastructure in Germany, we analyze the relationship between high-speed internet and sleep. We find that access to broadband internet reduces sleep duration and sleep satisfaction.”

These researchers aren’t the first people to raise the alarm about our dependence on internet-connected devices, or the possible links between areas like smartphone addiction and various negative health impacts. However, arguments surround many of these studies has gotten bogged down in the correlation versus causation debate. While this study is certainly not going to be the final word on the matter, the unique post-Berlin Wall digital divide in Germany — which has split broadband adoption along geographical lines — certainly makes for a compelling case study.

“Overall, the results were consistent with our prior [assumption] that high-speed internet may increase the use of digital devices, and more technology use near bedtime may delay bedtime and result in shorter and worse sleep,” Stella said. “A more surprising result is that the correlation between smartphone use and short sleep duration was highest among the 30- to 59-year-olds, rather than the under 30. The larger effect among over-30s may be explained by the fact that these individuals are more likely to face work and family constraints in the morning, and may not be able to compensate for a later bedtime.”

A paper describing the work was recently published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robo sidekicks, AC for your bed, and more

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the Web this week. You can't buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Genetically engineered bacteria paint microscopic masterpieces

By engineering E. coli bacteria to respond to light, scientists at the University of Rome have guided it like tiny drones toward patterns that depict Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, the Mona Lisa.
Mobile

No, blue light from your cell phone won’t make you blind

A new study from the University of Toledo reveals the process by which blue light impacts the photoreceptors in our eyes and leads to macular degeneration, an incurable eye disease that causes blindness later in life. The fact that blue…
Computing

The browser-based Monero miner Coinhive generates around $250,000 each month

Despite a fall in cryptocurrency mining, the Coinhive Monero miner is still highly active, generating around $250,000 each month. Coinhive also contributes 1.18 percent of the total mining power behind the Monero blockchain.
Emerging Tech

Los Angeles subway to become first in the U.S. to use body scanners

Los Angeles is set to become the first city in the U.S. to use body scanners on its subway. The machines are portable and quick to set up, and can check around 2,000 people an hour without causing lines or delays for passengers.
Emerging Tech

Sick of walking everywhere? Here are the best electric skateboards you can buy

Thanks for Kickstarter and Indiegogo, electric skateboards are carving a bigger niche than you might think. Whether you're into speed, mileage, or something a bit more stylish, here are the best electric skateboards on the market.
Emerging Tech

Regular Wi-Fi can accurately detect bombs, chemicals, and weapons in bags

Surveillance cameras and bag searches have become commonplace when it comes to security in public venues. But researchers may have found a different way to detect suspicious items: regular Wi-Fi.
Gaming

How to connect a Nintendo Switch controller to your PC

Nintendo's Switch controllers, including the Joy-Cons and the aptly titled Pro Controller, use Bluetooth, which makes them compatible with your PC. Here's how to start using them for PC gaming.
Emerging Tech

Buying on a budget? Here’s all the best tech you can snag for $25 or less

We live in a world where you can get a cheeseburger for $1, a functioning computer for $5, and thousands of HD movies for $10 -- so it stands to reason that you should be able to pick up some pretty sweet gear for $25.
Emerging Tech

Science says waste beer could help us live on Mars

Scientists at the University of Colorado Boulder have developed a new super-insulating gel, created from beer waste, which could one day be used for building greenhouse-like habitats on Mars.
Emerging Tech

Engineers have made a new type of lithium battery that won’t explode

While statistically rare, the lithium-ion batteries used in mobile devices have been known to burst into flames. Researchers from University of Michigan have been working to change that.
Emerging Tech

Elon Musk’s Boring Company wants to dig a tunnel to Dodger Stadium

Elon Musk's Boring Company wants to build a high-speed transportation tunnel connecting Dodger Stadium to a nearby Metro station. The system would run 150-mph passenger pods between the stadium and a terminus to the west.
Emerging Tech

Watch as a ‘lifeguard drone’ rescues a swimmer struggling at sea

These days, drones are finding a range of roles in a myriad of fields. Lifeguards, for example, are making use of the drone's ability to quickly deploy flotation devices while also offering an eye in the sky to survey the scene.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? Here are the best drones on the market right now

To help you navigate the increasingly large and ever-changing landscape of consumer UAVs, here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now