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Does Having Fast UK Broadband Mean You Lose More Sleep? Hmm

Wednesday, August 8th, 2018 (2:34 pm) - Score 1,684
angry uk internet user

A recently published study from researchers at the University of Pittsburgh (USA) and Bocconi University (Italy) attempts to “identify the causal impacts” of “high-speed internet” on sleep duration and sleep satisfaction. The results, they claim, suggest that those with good broadband tend to sleep 25 minutes less than those without.

The study, which has also been picked up by The Times (paywall) today, was completed last year but has only just been made available to the public (read it here). Unfortunately it has more than a few holes, not least of which is that correlation is not the same as causation. The lack of a detailed context for those adults’ surveyed (around 10,869 diary observations resulting from 5,587 individuals in Germany) is another issue.

We should also point out that copper line DSL (ADSL etc.) technology is defined as “high-speed” (laughable by modern standards) in the paper, although this is purely because the research has been based on old historical data (2013) and thus needed to reflect the broadband ISP connectivity of that time period.

Otherwise it’s noted that individuals sleep on average about 6.8 hours per night during the working week and about 7.9 hours during the weekend. Approximately 35% of individuals in the sample slept at most 6 hours, while 96% slept at most 8 hours, and 64% of them sleep between 7 and 9 hours during the weekday. Average satisfaction with sleep is 6.9. Roughly 80% of them had broadband internet access via DSL at home.

Study Extracts

Despite the growing attention of doctors and medias on the potential negative effects of Internet and digital devices on sleep, to the best of our knowledge, there are no studies that examine the causal effect of the access to high-speed Internet on sleeping behaviour. The goal of this paper is to fill this gap in the literature by exploiting a plausible source of exogenous variation in access to high-speed Internet.

In this paper, we rely on the variation in Broadband access induced by these historical peculiarities of the German communication network to identify the causal impacts of high-speed Internet on sleep duration and sleep satisfaction. Our findings reveal a large, negative impact of high-speed Internet on sleep duration.

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 interval typically recommended by the scientific community. Furthermore, they are less likely to be satisfied with their sleep. These effects are mostly concentrated among younger adults.

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.

The research does at least note how its “main empirical challenge” was that DSL access may be “correlated with unobservable socio-demographic characteristics” (e.g. did any of their subjects turn the router off at night or were they being kept awake longer due to the sheer frustration of having to use an unreliable DSL line? We may never know), although it doesn’t really go far enough to remove those concerns.

The study admits that “more research is needed” on the subject, but we do really need so much effort just to tell us that using the internet or TV too much will result in people staying up late and being tired in the morning? Surely that’s pretty obvious to any who partake. In any case we won’t lose sleep over it. Many Bothans died to bring you this vital information.

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Mark Jackson
By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he is also the founder of ISPreview since 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on Twitter, , Facebook and Linkedin.
Leave a Comment
7 Responses
  1. wireless pacman

    It’s not April today, is it?

  2. Adam

    Well couldn’t it be that those with faster internet live a more urban lifestyle? Run of their feet is what i’m saying. Whereas those in a rural or an outskirt setting have less worries to deal with. No city noises bothering them for example. Cause typically urban areas have faster internet that rural folk.

  3. Andrew Ashmore

    slow news days here at ispreview

    • A piece of research about the impact of broadband connectivity is very relevant to an information site about broadband connectivity 🙂 . The fact that The Times merely regurgitated it without considering the strength of its data only made it more so.

  4. Simon

    I was up all last night on my 350mbps reading this- does that count? 🙂

  5. T h

    People who care about paying for super fast broadband are exactly the type of people that stay up all night gaming, streaming, browsing forums … The type of person that gets higher speeds are the cause of this correlation not the higher speed of the internet.

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