Not much can compare to the refreshing feeling of waking up from a great night's sleep - you're rested, rejuvenated and ready to take on the day. But if your beauty sleep leaves much to be desired, there may be more serious consequences than feeling tired and cranky.

"Good sleep is important for brain health," said Dr. Glen Finney, director for Geisinger's Aging Brain and Behavioral Neurology.

In particular, one study found a link between poor and disrupted sleep and an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease.

"Research has found that during sleep the brain appears to better clear out toxins linked to Alzheimer's disease called beta-amyloid," Dr. Finney said. "So it's suspected that not getting enough deep sleep over time may allow those toxins to build up and damage the brain."

Beta-amyloid is known for accumulating in brains as people grow older, and the brains of Alzheimer's disease patients have even more beta-amyloid than other people.

"If you struggle to get plenty of quality sleep, it doesn't mean you're going to develop Alzheimer's disease," Dr. Finney said. "But the research does suggest that sleep and giving your brain the chance to rest each day may help keep the beta-amyloid plaques in the brain to a minimum."

Dr. Finney adds, "Good quality sleep also helps people keep what they learn day to day, and being well-rested makes it easier to pay attention and concentrate the next day."

Here's what you can do to set yourself up for better, deeper sleep.

1. Establish a sleep routine and stick to it

Going to bed and waking up at roughly the same time, even on weekends, helps regulate your body's internal clock.

"Maintaining regular wake and sleep times can help you fall asleep and stay asleep," Dr. Finney said. "Even if you had problems resting the night before, waking up at the same time every day tells your body it needs the sleep the next night."

2. Avoid afternoon naps

Feeling groggy in the afternoon may make a nap seem like a great idea, but napping too long could make it difficult to fall asleep at bedtime. Short naps that are no longer than 20 minutes at a time can help refresh the brain, but when a nap goes longer than 20 minutes it risks going into a deeper stage of sleep, which can throw off the internal clock that keeps track of days and nights.

3. Create a relaxing bedtime ritual

Read a book, take a warm bath, listen to soothing music or something else that helps you relax and unwind from your day the last hour before you go to bed. This gives your body time to shift into sleep mode.

Light from electronic device screens can inhibit your body's production of melatonin, which is a hormone that makes you sleepy, so you should avoid these in the hours just before bed. Similarly, avoid anything that causes excitement, stress or anxiety close to bedtime that could make it more difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep.

4. Set your room up for sleep

"Your bedroom should be dark, quiet, comfortable, and cool for the best sleep possible," Dr. Finney said. Turn your thermostat down to 60 to 67 degrees at night and make sure your room is free of any noise or light that could disturb your sleep. "No reading, no watching TV at bedtime; bed is for sleep. If you're not asleep in 15 minutes, get up and go do something else for 15 minutes, then come back to bed, turn out the lights, and try again for another 15 minutes. Keep doing this until you can catch your body naturally slipping into sleep."

5. Exercise, but not too close to bed

Making time for exercise and physical activity each day can help you expend enough energy to help you be tired at night. Just make sure you complete your workout at least two hours before bedtime - a post-workout burst of energy could keep you awake.

6. Avoid alcohol and caffeine

Caffeinated coffee in the morning is OK, but cut off caffeine when the clock strikes noon. Caffeine, even in small amounts, can remain in your system longer than you may realize.

Similarly, avoid alcohol close to bedtime.

"Although alcohol can make you feel sleepy, when its initial effects wear off it can make you wake up more often throughout the night," Dr. Finney said.

7. Watch what time you hydrate

Drinking water and staying hydrated are important to stay healthy every day, but drinking water too close to bedtime could mean nighttime bathroom breaks.

"Getting up at night to go to the bathroom can make it more difficult for you to fall back to sleep," Dr. Finney said. If possible, stop drinking liquids two hours before bed.