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How to Sleep Better and Wake Up Rested

Contributor: Rebecca Robbins, PhD
4 minute read
Young woman sleeps in bed

When was the last time you woke up rested and refreshed? If you can’t remember, you’re not alone. “Two out of three people in the United States don’t get enough sleep. Many people also have difficulty falling and staying asleep,” says sleep expert Rebecca Robbins, PhD. “All of these struggles contribute to poor quality sleep.”

On a recent episode of the Mel Robbins podcast, Dr. Robbins, a Mass General Brigham researcher at Brigham and Women’s Hospital’s Division of Sleep and Circadian Disorders, discusses why sleep is so important and gives advice for sleeping better.

Why sleep matters

Poor sleep can impact nearly every area of your life. According to Dr. Robbins, better sleep may quickly improve your:

  • Ability to learn and form new habits

  • Brain fog

  • Energy level

  • Memory function

  • Productivity

7 tips for better sleep tonight

It’s tempting to turn to sleep medications to get better sleep. However, according to Dr. Robbins, when researchers compared prescription sleep medications and behavior changes for improving sleep, the behavior changes worked better.

Here are 7 habits Dr. Robbins recommends for great sleep:

  1. Keep a consistent routine: Consistency in your evening wind-down routine trains your body and brain to expect sleep. Waking up at the same time each morning is also part of sleep consistency.

  2. Get some sunlight and fresh air: Getting outside after you wake up, even if it’s just for a few minutes, helps reset your sleep-wake cycle. If you can’t get out in the morning, getting some afternoon sun works well, too.

  3. Go phone-free before bed: Put away your phone at least 15 minutes before bed. If you need to start small, try just five minutes and work up to longer.

  4. Sleep in a cool bedroom and promote airflow: If possible, lower the temperature in your bedroom by a few degrees. Dr. Robbins says 65 to 68 degrees is ideal. Sleep in bedding and clothes made of breathable fabrics.

  5. Keep your bedroom clear of anything stressful: Piles of work or laundry can remind you of your to-do list and cause stress. Remove anything stressful and make your bedroom as calm as possible.

  6. Aim for complete darkness: Even a little light in your bedroom can disrupt your sleep. Ideally, your bedroom should be as close to pitch black as possible.

  7. Cut back on caffeine and avoid alcohol in the evening: Caffeine stays in your system from six to nine hours, and it’s a significant sleep disruptor. Limiting caffeine intake to only before lunch can make a big difference. Alcohol impacts your body, for instance, drinking before bed disrupts your sleep cycle and often leads to restless nights and wakeups.

In the podcast, Dr. Robbins also discusses what to do if it’s taking too long to go to sleep, how to pick a bedtime, how to deal with a shift schedule, who should avoid napping, and other helpful sleep tips. In addition, she lists the signs of possible sleep disorders, like sleep apnea, that require medical attention.


Sleep Researcher