Dr. Whitney Roban: “People aren’t taught WHY sleep is so important; This needs to change”

People aren’t taught WHY sleep is so important. They know they feel better when they get good sleep, but they don’t intellectually know all of the potential negative consequences to sleep deprivation. As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. […]

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People aren’t taught WHY sleep is so important. They know they feel better when they get good sleep, but they don’t intellectually know all of the potential negative consequences to sleep deprivation.

As a part of my series about “5 Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Whitney Roban.

Dr. Whitney Roban is a Family, Educational, and Corporate Sleep Specialist, as well as the founder of Solve Our Sleep. She is also the author of the books Devin & Evan Sleep From 8–7 and Devin & Evan Play Fortnite ’Til 11, as well as Dr. Roban’s Solve Our Sleep School Healthy Sleep Curriculum. Dr. Roban’s mission is to provide the education, solutions and support parents need to have well-rested families, students need to have academic success, working parents need to thrive both at home and at work, and corporations need to have healthy and well-rested employees.

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share with us the story about how you first got involved in fitness and wellness?

After I received my Ph.D. in Clinical and School Psychology, I was creating psycho-educational products to be used in the child therapeutic and educational markets. I then worked as an Applied Social Researcher in the youth market, during which time I gave birth to my first child. This child, nor his brother who followed two years later, were innately good sleepers. This significant parenting experience led me onto a new professional journey, as a sleep specialist. My unique and invaluable education, training, and experience as a clinical psychologist paved the way to my success as a leading expert in family, educational, and corporate sleep.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?

I started my sleep consultancy out of my home office in Los Angeles, California. During that time, I was only taking on local clients who I could see in my home office or at their place of work. Several years later I moved to New York, but most of my referral sources were still located on the West Coast. In order to serve my West Coast base, but also expand my practice to the East Coast, I decided to try to do my work remotely. As it turned out, my work was just as successful when done remotely, than when done solely in-person. This was a pivotal turning point in my business, as my clientele was no longer limited to a close proximity to where I was living.

Can you share a story with us about the most humorous mistake you made when you were first starting? What lesson or take-away did you learn from that?

The most humorous mistake I made was thinking that I had to limit my business to families, schools and corporations in close proximity to where I lived. Modern technology allows all of my work to be done remotely (phone, email, Skype, and webinars). This realization not only allowed me to expand my business reach, but it also allowed me to the flexibility I need as a single mom.

Can you share with our readers a bit about why you are an authority in the fitness and wellness field? In your opinion, what is your unique contribution to the world of wellness?

I started my sleep consultancy fifteen years ago, before sleep was a “hot” topic. So, not only have I been in the sleep field longer than most, I also have the educational background and training as a Cognitive Behavioral Psychologist that many sleep consultants do not. My work experience in the field, educational background, and my parenting experience are all important components that come together to make for a sleep expert.

Besides being the first to offer Working Parent Sleep Coaching to corporations, I have also created the first-of-it’s-kind school sleep curriculum for elementary, middle and high schools. This program is being rolled out at various schools this 2019–2020 school year.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My father was an entrepreneur and I watched him build and grow his business throughout my childhood. He was instrumental in helping me start my business fifteen years ago and if he were still here today (he passed away 7 years ago) I know he would be very proud of my success.

Ok thank you for all that. Now let’s move to the main focus of our interview. We all know that it’s important to eat more vegetables, eat less sugar, exercise more, and get better sleep etc. But while we know it intellectually, it’s often difficult to put it into practice and make it a part of our daily habits. In your opinion what are the 3 main blockages that prevent us from taking the information that we all know, and integrating it into our lives?

  1. People aren’t taught WHY sleep is so important. They know they feel better when they get good sleep, but they don’t intellectually know all of the potential negative consequences to sleep deprivation.
  2. As a result of #1, people do not prioritize sleep. Why would someone take it upon themselves to make changes to their daily life if they don’t know WHY it is so important to do so. Therefore, in order to make changes you must make sleep a priority. In order to make sleep a priority, you have to understand WHY it is so important to do so.
  3. People think the changes they will be asked to make will be significant. However, it is just the opposite. There are so many small changes (that would seem insignificant) that you can make to your daily life that will have a significant positive effect on your sleep.

Can you please share your “5 Non-Intuitive Lifestyle Tweaks That Will Dramatically Improve One’s Wellbeing”? (Please share a story or an example for each, and feel free to share ideas for mental, emotional and physical health.)

1. Adapt an appropriate and consistent daily sleep schedule.

Most adults need between 7–9 hours of sleep at night. You can figure out your “magic” sleep number requirement by using a week when you can go to bed about the same time every night and not set an alarm to wake in the morning (maybe on a vacation week). Record the time you woke sans alarm every morning and how many hours of sleep you logged. After about one week, you will have a good idea if you are a 7, 8 or 9 hour sleeper (personally I am an 8 hour sleeper).

Once you figure out an appropriate sleep schedule, try to go to bed about the same time every night and wake up about the same time every morning. Our bodies (and sleep) thrive on consistency and in order to keep our circadian rhythms (our sleep/wake cycles) balanced, we need a consistent daily sleep schedule.

2) Implement a brief, relaxing and consistent daily bedtime routine before you go to sleep.

Our bodies thrive on consistency. When we do the same thing every night before going to sleep, it is a signal to our brains and to our bodies that it is time to relax and get ready for sleep. Great suggestions for bedtime routine activities are reading (print books), yoga stretches, deep breathing, journaling, meditation, and listening to relaxing music.

3) Make these changes to your daytime habits and routines:

Immediately upon waking, get light into your bedroom and take some long deep breathes; get enough sunlight during the day and take breaks to go outside (if possible) to exercise or just stretch (at your desk is okay if you can’t get outside); eat small meals throughout the day; no caffeine after lunch; if you nap make sure the nap is 30 minutes or less and ends by 3pm.

4) Make these changes to your evening habits and routines:

Set a timer on your phone for one hour before you should go to bed. At this time turn off electronics and charge them outside the bedroom, dim the lights in the home and put on relaxing music; no spicy food, sugary foods, or heavy meals before bed; no alcohol close to bedtime; make sure your bedroom is cool, dark and quiet.

5) Make sleep a priority in your life!

You cannot expect to have healthy sleep in your life if you don’t prioritize sleep. Sleep is considered the 3rd pillar of healthy, along with diet and exercise. You need to make healthy sleep schedules and healthy sleep routines a priority in order to experience the positive effects of being well-rested. Remember, in order to get to the Zzzzz’s, you have to follow the ABC (Assertiveness in your new sleep plan for healthy sleep; Belief that you can become a great sleeper; Commitment to healthy sleep)

As an expert, this might be obvious to you, but I think it would be instructive to articulate this for the public. Aside from weight loss, what are 3 benefits of daily exercise? Can you explain?

Answering this as a sleep specialist, exercise during the day (as long as it is completed within 2 hours of going to bed), will help you sleep better at night. Answering this as a Psychologist, exercise improves our mental health and our mood.

For someone who is looking to add exercise to their daily routine, which 3 exercises would you recommend that are absolutely critical?

From a sleep perspective: yoga, mindfulness and meditation are all great body and mind exercises.

In my experience, many people begin an exercise regimen but stop because they get too sore afterwards. What ideas would you recommend to someone who plays sports or does heavy exercise to shorten the recovery time, and to prevent short term or long term injury?

I will defer to the exercise experts for this question.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story?

Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child by Dr. Marc Weissbluth. It was the book I used to help me sleep train my kids. It was a long and thorough book with so much important information inside. However, being a new mom myself, I knew that most new mothers would not have the time nor the energy to read the book. That is what gave me the idea to focus my private practice on helping families get the sleep they all need and deserve.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We are currently experiencing a global epidemic of sleep deprivation. However, healthy sleep education is not taught to children at home nor at school. I believe we can end the generational cycle of sleep deprivation by getting healthy sleep education to children at a young age, so that they do not grow up to be severely sleep deprived adults. This crusade has led me to develop the first-of-it’s-kind school sleep curriculum titled Dr. Roban’s Solve Our Sleep School Healthy Sleep Curriculum. This curriculum is going to rolled out in elementary, middle and high schools this 2019–2020 school year. The movement I am going to lead is for all states to require health sleep education as part of their schools’ health curriculums. Sleep is considered the 3rd pillar of health, along with diet and exercise. Therefore, healthy sleep education should be added to all school health curriculums, along with the already included diet and exercise.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life?

My favorite “life lesson quote” came from my father (may he rest in peace). He always said “Can’t” is not in the Shindler dictionary” (Shindler is my maiden name). He raised me with the belief that I could do anything I put my mind to. If I ever said to him “but I can’t”, he would always answer with “but you can try”. My father instilled in me all the confidence I needed to start my own business in the sleep field before anyone talked about sleep, and to persevere with ideas that I believe in.

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Priscilla Chan

Priscilla Chan is co-founder and co-CEO of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative. One of the foundation’s main focus areas is the “Whole Child”. They believe, as I do, that teachers and students need to be supported not only academically, but also physically, socially, and emotionally. This “whole child” approach to education includes healthy sleep education, as sleep affects the “whole child” — their physical, social, and emotional lives. I would love to be able to share my groundbreaking healthy sleep school curriculum with Priscilla Chan, as I believe she will be a champion of my important cause to include healthy sleep education in the schools. Her husband, Mark Zuckerberg, would be a great addition to our meeting as well!

What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

Facebook: @WhitneyRobabPhD

Twitter: @SolveOurSleep

LinkedIn: Whitney Roban, Ph.D.

Instagram: @drwhitneyroban

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We wish you only continued success in your great work!

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