Most of us aren’t getting enough sleep. Yet everyone seems to have an opinion about the best ways to fall and stay asleep.
But how do you sort through that noise and find the methods that work for you?
Consider yourself in luck.
Here are the definitive answers to the biggest myths about sleep:
MORE SLEEP TIPS: 12 science-backed habits to get a better night’s sleep
Myth #1: Everyone must get 8 hours of sleep.
FACT: Put down the stopwatch. Although some of us do best with eight hours of sleep, others do better with seven, nine, or even four hours. It’s all influenced by factors including genetics, age, and activity level.
For example, there are several genes connected to being a “short sleeper,” someone who can function on just a few hours of sleep.
Myth #2: Alcohol helps you sleep.
FACT: Although it might make you feel drowsy, that nightcap might actually disrupt your sleep. A small Australian study found that people who drank alcohol before bed tended to have certain patterns in their brain consistent with disrupted sleep. So even if they were experiencing restorative sleep, those waves negated any positive effect.
Scientists have been studying the counterintuitive relationship between the drowsiness that comes from drinking alcohol and actual sleep since the 1930s. There’s some evidence to suggest it has to do with the body metabolizing alcohol at the same time it’s trying to sleep, suggesting that it’s difficult for the body to multitask.
Myth #3: You can catch up on sleep.
FACT: Yes, the idea of being able to sleep in until noon on the weekends sounds enticing. But it’s wreaking havoc on your internal body clock: Every time you shift your hours, it feels roughly like flying from New York to California and then back again in one weekend, leaving your body confused on Monday.
The best way to prevent it? Try to get a consistent amount of sleep each night at roughly the same time.