The modern world makes it hard to get a good night's rest in so many ways -- there are sleep disrupting devices, email-happy night owl bosses, even the return of Game of Thrones (and other binge-worthy shows). The last thing you need to do is make it even more difficult to get the rest you need.

But according to a fascinating recent post by Melanie Pinola on lifehacker, lots of us believe sleep myths that actually make it more difficult to fall and stay asleep. If you struggle with getting enough rest, the full post is well worth a read, but here are a few of the most common misconceptions Pinola discusses (along with some links to additional science on the issues):

1. Alcohol helps you sleep.

Drink enough and you'll pass out, of course, but don't confuse a period of unconsciousness with a good night's sleep. "Alcohol, the original nightcap, can help most people fall asleep. However, it also can cause you to wake up more during the night, wrecking your sleep quality," warns Pinola. And sorry stoners, weed is bad for your sleep too.

2. If you wake up in the night, just lie in bed.

Actually, science says the opposite. "Within 15 minutes, most experts recommend getting out of bed to do something that occupies our bodies and brains without overstimulating us," explains Pinola. It might also help you to know that waking up in this way is completely normal -- the expectation that people will get a solid eight hours of sleep is a modern invention.

3. A nap will refresh you.

Naps are wonderful for so many reasons, but there's an art to the daytime snooze. "Depending on how long you nap, you might end up feeling groggy when you wake up. Aim for about 20 minutes if you want a boost in energy and mental alertness," recommends Pinola. Here's more info on how to take the perfect nap, if you want a deeper dive into the subject.

4. You're either a night owl or a lark.

Actually, sleep preferences are more complicated than that. According to Pinola, "people have different energetic times during the day that aren't necessarily tied to our preference for sleeping late or getting up early."

5. Everyone needs eight hours of sleep a night.

Nope, the young and old need more, and the sleep needs of people in their middle years vary. Though sleep experts recommend seven to eight hours a night in general, "the quality of your sleep matters more than how much time you spend asleep," Pinola points out.

Researchers also recently found that even our light bulb-less hunter gatherer forebearers probably didn't get that much sleep, so if you feel decently well rested, don't get hung up a specific number of hours.

Did you believe any of these sleep myths?

Published on: May 6, 2016
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