Interview

Dr. Rebecca Robbins

BWB interviews Rebecca Robbins, M.S., PhD on how to get healthy sleep.

Dr. Robbins is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the NYU School of Medicine where she leads an NIH/NHLBI funded study with Principal Investigator Dr. Girardin Jean-Louis, entitled “Tailored Approach to Sleep Health Education.” Their project develops materials to promote awareness about sleep and sleep disorders in minority populations.

In her research, Dr. Robbins examines the link between sleep quality and success while awake.  She studies the vital role sleep plays in our memory, cognition, health, and longevity. Her research has appeared in peer-reviewed publications such as SLEEPHealth CommunicationPreventing Chronic Disease, and the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology. In 2011, Dr. Robbins co-authored a book summarizing these findings entitled Sleep for Success! with Dr. James B. Maas.

We had the opportunity to speak with Dr. Robbins about how to get the best sleep.

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Can you tell us more about you and your work at the NYU School of Medicine?

My research at NYU Langone Health examines the critical role between sleep and our waking success, and the small changes we can make to improve the quality of our rest.

What does the concept, “Social Jet Lag,” really mean?

Social jet lag refers to when individuals hold one calendar (e.g., 7am wake up, 11pm bedtime) Monday through Friday, then (often for social reasons) delay this bedtime and rising time on the weekends. Unfortunately, changing our rising time and bed times more than 1 hour can introduce jet lag-like symptoms causing our bodies to believe we are in a new time zone. This can cause insomnia-like symptoms on Sunday night with the return to the work week schedule.

What do you advise for a productive nap that will not disrupt the sleep routine?

The best nap is a power nap for a small boost of energy in the afternoon. Napping is ideal between 2 and 4pm in the afternoon when we have  a regular dip in alertness. A “power nap” is 20 minutes in duration, a short nap like this will be enough to get energy without disruptions to your sleep schedule.

What is your view on sleep ‘gadgets’ such as sunrise simulator lamps? Do you have any favorites?

There are new gadgets everyday on the market! Gadgets that track sleep, such as the Beautyrest Sleeptracker Monitor, are great for promoting awareness about your habits, and provide opportunities to improve your sleep quality.

What can we do throughout the day to ensure a successful sleep?

Our habits during the day truly matter for our sleep! Exercise and nutrition play a big role in the quality of our rest at night. We do know that individuals who get regular exercise get better sleep at night. Also, we have evidence that light meals at dinner are best for sleep (too heavy a meal can disrupt your ability to fall asleep).

As a Sleep Expert in the “City that Never Sleeps,” what are some of your favorite…

Evening teas: I love detox teas by Pukka and Kusmi.

What beauty products do you like to use in the evening? Any favorite bedtime books?

Not yet launched in the US, my favorite skin cream is a German company called byNacht. I love their creams, and they are all natural and extra moisturizing!

I am part of a book club, which helps keep me busy with reading. My personal favorite books are novels, and anything classic. I love everything from Jane Austen to F. Scott Fitzgerald.

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