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'Sorry I'm late': Social media and cellphone stress mean we should be sleeping more

Sorry, boss, according to science we can’t show up on time because of all those work emails we check on our smartphones.

Previously, we were told that the ideal amount of sleep to function properly was eight hours a night. However, thanks to stress, science is saying we deserve a little more.

A man in a sleeping bag tries to buy a new phone in Berlin in 2013, not realizing that his phone would want to make him sleep more. (Photo: Getty)

Why we don’t know exactly why we need to sleep — imagine our caveman ancestors staring at someone lying still for eight-plus hours, thinking he is dead, and then he shoots up and says, “I feel great!” —  we do know that in order to function, we need to sleep. Lack of adequate sleep can lead to an early death.

According to the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health, we should be getting at least seven hours, but preferably eight hours of sleep each night.

But there’s a new sheriff in town. And his name is Daniel Gartenberg; he is assistant adjunct professor in biobehavioral health at Penn State University.

According to Gartenberg, humans now need to sleep eight and a half hours a night in order to be healthy.

Most of Gartenberg’s research centers around the process of synaptic homeostasis — according to ScienceDirect, “a phenomenon that prevents the nervous system from descending into chaos.” He told the Daily Mail, “One of the main functions of sleep is to take all the information we get throughout the day and sort into what’s relevant. It’s the idea that one of the main functions of sleep — besides cell recovery — is to process information.”

If you take into account that we used to sleep about eight hours a night, before the internet, and now humans average about seven hours of sleep despite the 34GB of information we process a day, it just doesn’t add up.

For once, let’s listen to an expert. “The very fact that people used to sleep that much suggests that we need to sleep that much,” said Gartenberg. 

The deeper issue may be that we are not having the right quality of sleep, and, as you’ve heard, the light from our cellphones, tablets, and computer screens is to blame.

But thanks to these specific technologies, we can analyze our sleep better. Noises, such as an air conditioner or refrigerator going on, wake us up, even if it’s just for a few seconds. Our wearable tech can pick that up and warn us of it.

Gartenberg’s solution is Sonic Sleep, an app that uses “pink noise” to round out those bumps in the night.

He said, “With cellphones and social media, our brains are always a little on; our fight or flight response is always just a little bit activated, so there’s this low-level anxiety that you may not even notice, but it’s there and you have to train yourself out of it.”

So, here’s to sleeping an extra 30 minutes a night, hopefully undisturbed.

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