Psych Services: Sleeping Better in Santa Fe—or Anywhere

Lisa Garmezy

Officers who responded to the shooting in Santa Fe can’t sleep—and neither can lots of people facing more ordinary problems. This list of tips, developed for courageous Texas responders, can help anyone get more rest.


The suggestions are based on the idea that lying awake in bed is a bad habit that can and should be broken. Advice from Stanford and USC on “sleep hygiene” is combined here with general stress management strategies. Yes, your family will think you’re nuts when you pop out of bed at 3 a.m. (see No. 4), but your health and peace of mind are worth it.


  1. Your bed is for sleep and sex only. Don’t use your bed for phone calls, watching movies, reading, worrying or staring at the ceiling recalling bad experiences. Keep all of that outside of the bedroom.


  1. Avoid naps. If you have to nap, keep it under an hour and not within six hours of bedtime.


  1. Try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day, seven days a week. Keep your body on a regular schedule with meals and exercise at the same times each day as much as possible.


  1. Get up, if you can’t fall asleep after 20 minutes in bed. Go to another room and do something that’s not too stimulating, like reading or dusting. When you feel sleepy, go back to bed.


  1. Like a child, put yourself to bed with a relaxing routine in low light. Check the locks, shower, clean your teeth, or do whatever you do in the same order every night.


  1. Most people sleep best when the bedroom is under 71 degrees.


  1. Three to four hours before bed, switch any electronic device you’re using to the warmer light of Night Mode. The blue light of screens interferes with sleep. On an iPad or an iPhone go to Settings, then Display and Brightness. Check your app store for “blue light” apps if you can’t adjust your device.


  1. Evict pets from the bedroom.


  1. Regular exercise helps people sleep better—but not within three hours of bedtime.


  1. Absorb sunlight if you want to sleep at night; avoid sunlight during the day if you want to sleep during the day.


  1. At bedtime, think of at least one thing that went right during the day. Include the little things, like light traffic or a great sandwich. Practice gratitude.


  1. Cut out noise with earplugs, a fan or a white noise machine (available on amazon).


  1. Keep your bedroom completely dark. Turn the clock around so you don’t see the time. Use dark garbage bags on the windows if you have to—or buy blackout curtains or eyeshades.


  1. No caffeine or other stimulants six hours before bedtime: this includes over-the-counter medication (check ingredients), energy drinks, tea, most sodas—not just colas–and cigarettes. Visit and search “caffeine chart” to see what’s in your favorite beverages.


  1. Try prayer, meditation or relaxation before bed. Use the apps Headspace or Breathe2Relax, or find one that sends a daily inspirational message.


  1. Keep a journal of your worries and possible ways things could improve—but don’t write within three hours of bedtime.


  1. Alcohol is not the answer. It may help you fall asleep, but it interferes with staying asleep and is highly addictive.


  1. Tolerance for prescription sleeping pills develops quickly. They are intended for short-term use only. Research shows that these behavior change ideas work better!


  1. A melatonin supplement, safe for most people, may help. Try 3 mg. 30 minutes before bed.


  1. If your sleep hasn’t returned to normal six weeks after a horrible event, find a therapist or seek spiritual care.