Waking up with bags beneath your eyes is the least of your worries if you're not getting the deep sleep every human being requires.
And while every person is different, most people function well on about eight hours of sleep.
"The average, when you look across the board, is 7-1/2 to eight hours of sleep is best. Not everyone requires that, some people require more," said Dr. Richard Bregman, medical director of the St. Francis Hospital Sleep Disorders Center.
Some people require a little less, although pushing the line too far has side effects for many people.
"When someone consistently gets less than what they require, things go wrong," he said. "Their memory is decreased, the ability to focus is decreased, mental acuity is decreased. So there are some real issues that occur -- not just being sleepy -- when one is chronically sleep-deprived."
In the years since he's been in practice, Bregman has heard a lot of causes for lost sleep and some excuses and remedies to go with them. But to get better quality Zs, you have to wipe out some old habits and ways of thinking.
Myth: It's impossible to catch up on sleep.
"You can. It's called recovery sleep, and it usually takes two nights of recovery sleep to get one back to their base line," he said.
But that doesn't mean you must make up the exact amount of time lost. If you lose five hours of sleep in a single night, you don't have to sleep five extra hours over the course of next few days. Your body will often let you know to go to bed a little earlier than usual.
"It's not a formula," he said. "You do go into a sleep debt, but you can make it up."
Myth: A nightcap helps me get to sleep.
"Not true," Bregman said. "The amount you think it takes increases. It might be a half a glass of wine and in another month, it's a glass of wine and then maybe a glass and a half," he said.
The body acclimates to alcohol and gradually requires more to achieve the same effect.
As alcohol metabolizes in the body it can cause a person to wake to varying degrees throughout the night, fragmenting the sound sleep you should be getting.
If you have sleep apnea, alcohol also can make snoring worse since it works as a muscle relaxer. The tongue is relaxed and closes off the back of the throat cutting off airways.
"If you do want a drink, you should not drink within three hours of bedtime," he said.
Myth: It's OK to take naps.
"They're using up their sleep (during the day). They've rested already," he said.
Because the body is attuned to rest a certain amount of time each day, a nap after dinner can disturb the body's circadian rhythm, or its natural 24-hour clock," Bregman said.
If a person needs a quick wink, Bregman said it should be taken before4 p.m. so as not to interfere with a solid night's rest, Bregman said.
Myth: Staying up late on weekends will have no effect through the rest of the week.
"You should go to bed at the same time and get up at the same time each day, even on a Sunday," Bregman said. "You can maybe sleep an hour later, but if you sleep 'til 10 o'clock, there's no way in the world you're going to be able to go to bed at your normal bedtime."
Again, it comes down the body's internal clock, and altering your sleep patterns on weekends (sleeping in late Sundays) can only make it more difficult to rest later that night.
No wonder no one likes Mondays.
Myth: Take pain medications with asleep aid to rest.
Bregman said many of these short-acting medications are safe and can be withdrawn from safely, but be mindful of what it is you're taking.
All "P.M." meds contain an antihistamine found in such allergy medications as Benadryl.
"The problem is it doesn't work quickly, and it oftentimes lasts a long time," he said.
People taking these products often experience a "hangover-type effect."
"If you've ever taken Benadryl, sometimes it can act on youfor10 hours, and you'll be very lethargic," he said. "If somebody needs a sleeping aid, they should be given a sleeping aid, not a Benadryl. But a lot of people take it because it is inexpensive and it makes you sleepy."
Bregman also added that people should avoid exercise and heavy meals prior to bedtime.
Exercise increases adrenaline and winds you up when you need to begin winding down toward the end of the day. A good rule of thumb is to avoid high activity at least six hours before bedtime.
Exercising actually contributes to a good night's rest because it's a release of energy and muscle tension. Just be mindful when you do it.
While light snacks of food containing the sleep-inducing amino acid L-tryptophan (turkey, milk, tuna) may help you get to sleep, a big meal digesting in the gut while you're reclining could make for an uncomfortable night, as stomach acids can cause indigestion.
"When we deal with people with insomnia it's kind of like every little bit can help, like no naps after 4 o'clock, getting exercise during the day ... Every little tip helps," he said. "It's not just one thing, it's a little bit of everything."