Getting a good night’s sleep — between 7-9 hours a night for adults — is one of the best things you can do for your health. But just like with everything else these days, there’s a lot of misleading info about sleep out there. We’re here to debunk the top five sleep myths — and tell you how to get more (and better-quality) shut-eye.
You can sleep in on weekends to make up for lack of sleep during the week.
FACT: Busy work and family schedules can wreak havoc on your sleep. This can cause you to accumulate what’s commonly known as “sleep debt.” But sleep researchers agree: You can’t make up for lost time when it comes to sleep. One extra-long night of sleep may make you feel more energetic when you wake up, but the positive effects disappear after 6 hours or so. The only way to get the full benefits of good sleep is to get 7-9 hours a night — every night. Have a bad night? Don’t stress. Just shoot for your optimal amount the next night (and the next and the next).
Watching TV or scrolling through social media can help you fall asleep at night.
FACT: TVs and smartphones emit something called “blue light.” This blue light suppresses the release of melatonin, the naturally occurring hormone that regulates your sleep. If you watch TV or use an electronic device at bedtime, it can take you longer to fall asleep. You can wake up feeling groggy even if you slept for 8 or more hours. Sleep experts recommend you avoid screens for 1-2 hours before bedtime.
Sleep is sleep — it doesn’t matter when or where you get it.
FACT: Every person has an internal “clock” that controls their sleep-wake cycle. When your inner clock and your sleep habits don’t match up, you can experience poor performance, mental fogs, and sleepiness when you most need to be alert. People who work unusual hours (nurses, factory workers, etc.) often live out of sync with their normal body rhythm.
Daytime sleepiness means you’re not getting enough sleep.
While it’s common to feel a bit sleepy the day after a poor night’s sleep, excessive daytime sleepiness — an urge to fall asleep when you should be fully alert — could be the sign of something more serious. Discuss any symptoms like these with your doctor.
The older you get, the less sleep you need.
FACT: This last myth may be the most common. Here’s the real deal: While your sleep patterns may change as you age, the amount of sleep you need doesn’t. It’s the same for all adults: between 7-9 hours per night. Older adults do tend to have a harder time falling asleep. They also wake more frequently during the night. (This is especially true for women going through menopause.) So experts recommend that older adults create a solid and consistent bedtime routine — taking a warm bath, reading a book, or doing a calming yoga pose.