I realize I’m kind of a killjoy for any (possibly all) of you who are unashamedly (OK, maybe a little ashamedly) attached to your smartphones, but as long as science keeps rolling out the facts, it’s my responsibility to report them to you, which brings me to the latest piece of wisdom researchers have bestowed upon us: Your internet connection affects your sleep, and ~surprise~ not to your benefit. Sleep-tracking apps aside — you know, the ones that break down how much you sleep, the quality of your rest, and the different behaviors you could adopt in order to sleep better — an unlimited supply of internet access means more scrolling and less shut-eye. This is wonderful for your internet service provider, but not so great for your body (or your phone bill — yikes). Basically, the world wide web is changing that clever diddy, “you snooze, you lose,” to “you scroll, you lose snooze time.” And chances are, you’re totally falling for it.
But before you storm away from this article huffing and puffing, no one’s saying you have to completely cut ties with your internet access in order to achieve optimal beauty sleep. Cutting back on your screen time would certainly help, sure, but if I had to guess, it's going to take a little more than my babbling to convince you to put your phone away at bedtime. So instead, I’ll let science do the talking (for now).
According to a new study, published in the Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, 24-hour, high-speed DSL internet access is messing with your sleep schedule on the DL. So while you may not consciously realize it, this research suggests your body is definitely feeling the effects of having access to the internet all day and all night. The study explored how your internet access affects your sleep by looking for any potential parallels between the sleep patterns and technology use of people in Germany over the last 30 years. According to Vice, Germany has readily available, "extensive survey data on the sleeping patterns and technology use of its citizens," unlike many other developed countries, where this type of data is often much harder to access.
The results of the study showed that, based on extensive analysis of the Germany's survey data, the rise in popularity of DSL internet access seems to have led to a country-wide phenomenon of sleep deprivation that, according to estimates from the research firm RAND, is now costing Germany roughly $60 billion per year. And BTW, RAND's research has found that the U.S., Japan, Canada, and even the UK are all dealing with similar financial issues related to widespread sleep deprivation.
But arguably, the worst part of this whole thing is that the effects your internet can have on your sleep schedule are so subtle, you probably aren't even aware that simply subscribing to DSL internet puts your sleep health at risk. Why, you ask? Because you’re more likely to be tempted (and to give into that temptation) to use your tech devices before bed if they’re readily accessible. Francesco Billari, a professor of demography at Bocconi University, Milan, and a lead researcher on the study, explained his team's findings in a statement,
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.
However, just because the temptation is always there to ride the social media wave whenever you want, thanks to your high-speed internet access, doesn’t mean you have to give in. Of course, I totally get it: When you’re tossing and turning with little to no hope of restful shut-eye in sight, Instagram is seemingly there like a warm hug to get you through the night. However, sleep science coach and founder of SleepZoo, Chris Brantner, is pretty adamant that you try your best not to give in to temptation, and the reason why makes total sense.
Brantner tells Elite Daily over email that he definitely attributes continuous nighttime scrolling and the dire need to be connected to any device at all times to the rise in popularity of unlimited internet access, especially because, normally, the deal with DSL is that you don’t have to pay a ton of extra money to have that accessibility 24/7. While it’s definitely a blessing in some cases, Brantner says it’s also a potential curse for your sleep schedule. He tells Elite Daily that the issue isn't exactly how much you're using your device at night (though that does play some role), but rather the blue light emitting from these devices, which can cause a major disruption in your circadian rhythm — aka your body’s internal clock that signals when you should be asleep, and when you should wake.
"Staring at any screen (be it a TV, computer, or smartphone) in the dark dilates your pupils, allowing more of the harsh light in, which in turn messes up your circadian rhythm by inhibiting melatonin [a sleep hormone] production," Brantner explains. In other words, your circadian rhythm works in tandem with sunlight and darkness: When it's light outside, your body knows it's time to wake up, and when it's dark, it's time for sleep. But when you expose your body to blue light at night, your internal clock can become confused, which can not only make it more difficult to fall asleep, but also, Brantner says, it can "mess up your sleep cycle."
Look, the point of this article isn’t for me to persuade you to cancel your internet provider in the name of proper sleep hygiene. But what I will encourage you to do is this: Consider a few simple bedtime best practices to keep your sleep schedule consistent and high-quality to boot. One such habit you can adopt, Mattress Firm’s sleep health expert Dr. Sujay Kansagra tells Elite Daily, is to put away all electronic devices at least 30 minutes before bed; that means no scrolling through Instagram, updating your Facebook status, falling into a rabbit hole of cat videos on YouTube, or binge-watching Netflix until 1 a.m.
But if you really can’t commit to storing your smartphone outside the bedroom for whatever reason, Brantner gives you a little leeway by suggesting you switch your device to "do not disturb" mode when you go to sleep. That way, you’ll only be notified if there’s an emergency, rather than hear a resounding *ping* every time your BFF likes your photo. I promise, social media will be there as soon as you wake up.