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How to Get Better Sleep: A Sleep Psychologist Shares Tips

March 13, 2023

Poster for video Getting Better Sleep with Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD

Sleep is essential. Quality rest is necessary for maintaining good physical and mental health throughout your life. How you feel when you’re awake is partly determined by what happens during sleep; the body is actively engaged in restorative processes during this time.

Getting great sleep boils down to two central requirements: having a consistent sleep schedule and turning off your “busy brain,” says Lynelle Schneeberg, PsyD, a Yale Medicine sleep psychologist.

“Interestingly, waking up at the same time every day is more important than having a consistent bedtime,” Schneeberg says. “That’s because your body pays attention to what time you get out of bed in the morning and starts a ‘countdown clock’ to when your bedtime should be.” It’s also helpful that controlling what time you wake up is much easier than controlling what time you fall asleep, she adds.

Settling down at bedtime—and in the middle of the night if you wake up—can be trickier. To address this, Schneeberg first recommends doing whatever you need to wind down and feel organized at the end of the day. That could include simple tasks, such as straightening your home, making a to-do list for the next day, or even self-care, like a facial care routine or brushing your teeth.

Next, she suggests stocking your nightstand with books and an eReader or any device that lets you listen to books or podcasts or do puzzles. “You just want some ways to quiet your mind when you get in bed before you’re actually ready to doze off,” she says.

According to Schneeberg, it’s best to keep your bedroom quiet, cool, and dark—except for a nightlight that’s just bright enough so you can move around the room safely.

And if you do wake up at night, that doesn’t mean your sleep isn’t of good quality, she adds. “It’s very normal to wake up two to six times per night, often at the end of a sleep cycle or the end of a dream,” she says. “The problem arises if you wake up, get really worried about it, and start doing the math of how much time is left until morning. It’s much better to think to yourself, ‘Oh, that’s one of my normal wakings.’”

On the nights you don’t fall right back to sleep and start worrying about things you have to do the next day, pick up your book or eReader to distract yourself until you feel drowsy again, she advises.

Schneeberg shares more advice on getting a good night’s sleep in the video above.