Sleep is extremely important as we spend about a third of our life doing it. There is so much information out there about sleep it’s enough to make your head spin. Here, we dispel some of the common myths about sleeping.

Myth 1: People need less sleep with age

Fact: People often get less sleep as they get older, in part because they are more likely to develop a sleep disorder such as insomnia or sleep apnea, says Dr. Philip Gehrman, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania. “It’s not clear whether older adults need less sleep.  One of the best ways to know how much sleep you need is to gradually give yourself more and more sleep until you feel rested during the day.”

While it’s likely that we need the same amount of sleep that we did as young adults – the natural course of sleep generation, is that we are less able to consolidate sleep for the same lengths of time as when we were younger, says Dr. Robert Basner, director of the sleep center at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center. “Thus, our sleep times tend to be more fragmented – less sleep at night, more napping during the day, for example. We also tend to have less ‘deep’ sleep – that is slow-wave sleep as we age; men are particularly prone to loss of this ‘restorative’ sleep stage with aging.”

Myth 2: Everyone needs eight hours of sleep

Fact: The  American Academy of Sleep Medicine recommends that adults should sleep 7 or more hours per night on a regular basis to promote optimal health. Children and teens need even more sleep. Individual variability in sleep need is influenced by genetic, behavioral, medical, and environmental factors.

Myth 3: You can catch up on lost sleep on the weekends

Fact: It takes more than the two days of the weekend to get back to a rested state, says Gehrman.  “If you try to catch up on the weekends, but then start sleeping less at the beginning of the next week, you quickly end up just as tired as you were at the end of the week. Eventually you can catch up but it takes more than the weekend.”

Depending on how much ‘sleep debt’ you have accumulated, you can catch up on some lost sleep on the weekends, says Basner. “People should try to make up some of that sleep debt in order for optimal restorative sleep and better overall health. One problem with an irregular sleep schedule is that this may lead to problems with falling asleep readily and/or staying asleep as one shifts their circadian rhythms. For example, sleeping in on weekends may reset the circadian clock enough that one may have difficulty falling asleep at the necessary time Sunday night to arise on Monday morning.”

Myth 4: Watching TV helps you fall asleep

Fact: While some people like to have the background noise of the TV to help them fall asle