Sleep Doctors Debunk 7 Sleep Myths That Are Ruining Your Good Night’s Rest

Believing in these sleep myths could compromise your ability to snag a night of good sleep. Here, sleep experts clear up some of the biggest misconceptions about sleep they see with their patients.

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Myth: You need 8 hours of sleep a night

Myth: You need 8 hours of sleep a nightiStock/monkeybusinessimages
The latest research shows that the right amount of sleep is very personal and should leave you feeling energized the next day. I'm a sleep doctor, and I've been a 6 ½ hour-sleeper my entire adult life.

Myth: Don't fall asleep with the TV on

Myth: Don't fall asleep with the TV oniStock/Justin Horrocks
I've cured more insomnia than you can imagine by telling people it's OK to fall asleep with the TV on. A lot of people simply can’t turn off their brains, but watching TV helps. Put it on a timer so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep later in the night.

Myth: You can catch up on lost sleep on the weekend

Myth: You can catch up on lost sleep on the weekendiStock/Leonardo Patrizi
Sorry, but you can’t make up for too little sleep by sleeping more on the weekends. A Harvard study found that even if you snooze for an extra 10 hours on the weekend to compensate for only sleeping six hours a night for two weeks, those extra hours won’t improve your reaction times or ability to focus. Plus, sleeping late throws off your internal biological clock, which can lead to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.

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Myth: If you have a couple bad nights of sleep, you must have insomnia

 Myth: If you have a couple bad nights of sleep, you must have insomniaiStock/tab1962
Almost everyone has some nights when they can’t sleep. But if you’re always tired despite getting enough sleep or if you’re having insomnia more nights than not, those are signs you need professional help. Look for an accredited sleep center that has met standards set by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. (Find one by typing in your zip code at sleepcenters.org.)

Myth: "Caffeine doesn't affect MY sleep!"

Myth: "Caffeine doesn't affect MY sleep!"iStock/Likoper
You aren't immune to the effects of caffeine. No one is. Even if you can easily nod off after downing a cup of Joe, the caffeine keeps you in the lighter stages of sleep. When we do sleep studies, we can see a difference on your electrocardiogram (a recording of your heart's electrical activity) from just one cup of coffee.

Myth: Alcohol can help you rest easy

Myth: Alcohol can help you rest easyiStock/Neyya
People commonly use alcohol to fall asleep, but it doesn't work. A nightcap may relax you so you nod off quicker, but studies show you'll wake up more and get less of the REM sleep you need to feel rested.

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Myth: Older people need less sleep than younger people

Myth: Older people need less sleep than younger peopleiStock/GlobalStock
A lot of older people think they need less sleep, but in most cases, that’s not true. They may sleep less at night, but that’s because a lot of them take unscheduled naps during the day. If you look at their sleep over a 24-hour period, most of them are still sleeping same amount of time as younger folks.

Sources:

Board-certified sleep specialists Stephanie Silberman, PhD, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida; Muhammad Najjar, MD, at Northshore Sleep Medicine in Evanston, Illinois; Meir H. Kryger, MD, former chair of the National Sleep Foundation; and Michael Breus, PhD, author of Good Night: The Sleep Doctor’s 4-Week Program to Better Sleep and Better Health

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