Bedside Manners with Rebecca Robbins

Rebecca Robbins

Rebecca Robbins, PhD researcher at the NYU School of Medicine and co-author of Sleep for Success! on meditation, the ultimate nighttime routine and why investing in good sheets just might be the key to your best night’s sleep ever.

What’s your bedtime routine?

No matter how small or seemingly insignificant, bedtime routines condition our bodies to prepare for rest and cut down on the time it takes us to fall asleep. My routine is turning down my thermostat to 65F, hopping in a warm shower or (when time allows) bath, reading a few pages in my book or novel du jour, meditating for 5 minutes, then crawling into bed.

What’s the best night of sleep you’ve ever gotten?

Either on vacation in Europe or in the Caribbean when I’m free of worry, or after a long but productive day that ends with a dinner with people I love... I sleep like a baby.

What’s the worst night of sleep you’ve ever gotten?

I'm sad to say I've had a few! Booking the red eye home to NYC from the West Coast to allow for a full extra day of meetings or hikes is quite a temptation. These are the worst sleeps however, and something I've come to avoid as best I can.

What time do you go to sleep?

10pm during the workweek and as close to 11pm on the weekends as possible!

What time do you wake up?

Between 6 and 6:30am.

What puts you to sleep right away?

Meditation is an incredibly healing practice. There are a lot of misconceptions about it, but I strongly encourage anyone new to the practice to download a smartphone app or enroll in a workshop to learn a few relaxation and meditation strategies. At night I set a timer, sit on the floor, close my eyes, and do breath work and meditation exercises right before bed. After this practice, with a clear mind I slip right into the deepest slumber.

What keeps you awake at night?

The field of sleep medicine is so exciting right now. We are literally uncovering something new everyday. Papers to write, or studies I hope to do with my team are what keep me awake!

What’s on your bedside table?

My latest novel, Tata Harper aromatherapy, an eye mask, and a notepad in case I wake up or have a hard time falling asleep. I write down whatever is on my mind and then fall right back asleep.

What's the first thing you do in the morning?

Drink a glass of water with lemon, get into workout gear and get outside even to just walk around my block. The fresh air and blue light regulate our biological clocks, syncing our internal pattern of wakefulness and tiredness so that we fall asleep and wake up faster.

What’s your number one sleep tip?  

Try to wake up at the same time Monday through Monday. It is tempting for all of us to extend our bedtimes, but if nothing else, try to keep your wakeup time the same. If you go out with friends on a Saturday evening and sleep in until noon on Sunday, you will toss and turn for hours on Sunday night. That's no way to start your week! Even if you're out late, get up as close to your normal wake up time as possible, take a short nap in the afternoon if you're sleepy, pack your day with activities and social things, you will sleep soundly Sunday night and wake up refreshed on Monday.

What’s one sleep myth you’re tired of hearing?

"I get by on 4 hours and I'm fine!" We actually are finding that the percent of the population fundamentally able to do this is incredibly small - literally 0% when rounded to the nearest whole number. We do need sleep, and it is one of the best things we can do for our health. After a good night's rest we wake up with the energy to accomplish tasks in less time, make more sound decisions, better regulate our appetite. Why not indulge in a good night's sleep?

What do you think is the ideal environment for a good night’s sleep?

A room where you walk in and are immediately relaxed, that is decorated with neutral tones and luxurious fabrics. My motto is to invest in the bedroom and in your bedding as much as your budget can afford. We spend (or should spend) one third of our lives sleeping. Why not make the bedroom one of the nicest rooms in the house?


Bed: Anything that supports your head neck and spinal column in one straight line, and is instantly comforting to you as soon as you lie down. 

Midnight Snack: Nutrition plays a big role in our sleep! Nutritionists often argue it is best to eat most of your calories in the first half of your day and this is good for your sleep too. Try to have a hearty breakfast and lunch and reserve dinner for your lightest, healthiest meal. I usually have a salad with tofu or vegetables for dinner. If still hungry a small snack about an hour and a half before bed like a half a banana or glass of milk is great. My bedtime snack of choice is a glass of red wine (not too tall) of the most full-bodied cabernet I can find!

Sound to fall asleep to: If I could have it my way, I would choose the ocean every time. Although I live in NY, the city that allegedly never sleeps, I am very lucky to have a quiet block and fall asleep to the gentle hum of my air purifier. But if the neighborhood is noisy I'll pop in earplugs to block ambient noise.  

Sleepwear: Nothing.... Or a Hanro silk slip.

Bedtime Reading: Anything romantic. I love classics like Jane Eyre, and Rebecca.  Always in print never on a tablet. There is nothing like holding a book and turning the pages.