15 "Facts" About Sleep That Are Completely Wrong

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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: 

Getty Images/Joe Raedle 

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. 

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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.

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Myth #4: Sleep deprivation won't mess up other aspects of your health

FACT: While you may not feel it after one night of poor sleep, sleep deprivation can contribute to some pretty serious health conditions when it's chronic and consistent. 

Sleep deprivation has been linked to an increased risk of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, coronary heart disease, and stroke. But even in the short term, you may notice some negative consequences, such as poor vision, mood swings, and headaches.

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