Maybe that’s even you! If it is, you can probably guess that the best gift in the world for someone who can’t sleep well is… well, sleep.
As a recovered insomniac myself, and now a therapist specializing in sleep disorders, I’ve learned a lot over the years about what works, what helps, and what (usually) doesn’t.
Of course, research shows that the best solution for chronic insomnia is CBT-I (cognitive behavioural therapy for insomnia). Lots of info about how we can help with that on my website (and a little bit to follow). But this is the time of year that many people may be thinking about the small (or not so small) giftable things to help ease the pain and suffering of living with insomnia.
Here are my top picks, in no particular order:
1. Blue light blocking glasses. You’ve likely heard the recommendation to avoid screen time at night. It’s true! Light at night can negatively impact our circadian rhythms, and along with that, sleep. (Stay tuned for an upcoming post on more details about how to avoid and take advantage of light – at the right times, which might not be entirely what you’d expect). However, not all blue light glasses are created equal. And while your clear lens prescription or gaming glasses might be helpful for your eyes while staring at the screen for hours, they’re not likely sufficient to block out enough blue light at night to protect your circadian rhythm – and your sleep. It used to be hard to know which products to recommend; there are so many out there. But finally, there was a study done last year at the University of Arizona, comparing 50 different brands. Here are a couple I recommend, based on that research:
Swanwick – aka Swannies. While they weren’t necessarily the best at blocking out blue light, they were rated most favourably because of the good balance between effectiveness and usability. (The most effective weren’t actually as popular because they impaired visibility too much, making it difficult to read in the dark.)
Uvex Skyper. Maybe not as “sexy” looking as the Swannies (they look a bit like work goggles), but significantly cheaper (in the $20 range vs $119 for Swannies, last time I checked). And they do the trick. This link is for a pack of 2: one to gift, one for yourself.
2. Blackout blinds. Another important way to avoid light at the wrong times. Even surprisingly small amounts of light can disrupt circadian rhythm and sleep. In fact, if you’re having trouble with insomnia, your bedroom really should be dark enough to develop film. (I’ve been told I’m dating myself when I say that, so if you’re young enough to have no idea what I mean, here’s a random blurb.) That sunlight creeping in too early in the morning may be less of a problem at this time of year, but it will be even more of an issue when the sun is rising at 5 am in the summer. And if you have any electronic devices in your bedroom, such as an alarm clock, and air conditioner, a cpap machine, it’s important to block out all those little lights. And if one of your biggest sleep problems is waking up too early, you should especially do yourself a favour and invest in some perfectly dark blackout blinds.
3. Eye mask. ‘nuff said.
4. Lavendar bath salts. People have long reported finding lavender relaxing. But is it just a placebo? One study found that “Lavender increased the percentage of deep or slow-wave sleep (SWS) in men and women. All subjects reported higher vigour the morning after lavender exposure, corroborating the restorative SWS increase.” At bedtime, add a few drops of lavender oil to a piece of cloth and place it under your pillow. You can also add a few drops to a diffuser. Here’s another interesting “fun fact”: baths have been found in research to be more effective than showers for a pre-bedtime wind-down routine. That’s because our core body temperature first rises while immersed in the bath – and more importantly – suddenly drops when we get out. It’s that drop in core body temperature that brings on a feeling of relaxation and prepares the body for sleep.
5. Pajamas! Did you hate getting boring PJ’s for presents as a kid? If I told you there was a product that might actually help with sleep, I bet pajamas would seem a lot more luxurious now. Well, there’s a Swiss husband-and-wife company called Dagsmejan that claims to make pajamas that help regulate body temperature for improved sleep. I don’t normally recommend things that sound like just another gimmick or wild-goose chase promising better sleep. I’m sure you already know there’s no shortage of those on the internet. Truthfully, I haven’t tried these PJ’s and have no idea how helpful they might actually be for sleep. But I don’t mind passing on this tip simply because it comes from a reputable sleep scientist named Dr. Michael Gradisar who has taken a look at the science behind it. And besides, if you’re desperately looking for last minute gifts, who couldn’t use another pair of pajamas. 😉 I don’t think Dr. Gradisar will mind me passing on this promo code so you can grab 20% off: use code WINK20 at checkout to receive 20% off their entire range of products at Dagmajen store.
6. White noise machine. Does noise disrupt your sleep at night? Worse yet, make it hard to get back to sleep? When it comes to annoying noise at night, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. A low but steady stream of gentle noise (aka white noise) can help drown out – or at least help mask – those sudden sounds that can sabotage your sleep. But here’s something interesting I learned recently from a sleep scientist: apparently those nature sounds may not be great for sleep. Our brains are hardwired to process audio information while we sleep. Nice gentle sounds at a constant volume are what’s needed. But nature sounds typically don’t provide consistent enough decibels of noise, so our brain will try to stay alert to detect sounds of possible danger.
7. Dawn simulating light. Dawn lights mimic sunrise by gradually turning on before you need to wake up. It’s a more natural and gentle way to slowly come out of your final stage of sleep. If you struggle with that first-thing-in-the-morning grogginess (called “sleep inertia”), you may be interested to know that research has found dawn simulating lights can help sleep inertia to pass more quickly. (But if you have trouble with waking up too early in the morning, you might want to skip this idea, as it can make things worse.)
8. Sleep apnea supplies. Bet you never thought of that idea for a gift. Sleep apnea can be expensive. It’s not just the initial cost of the machine, but ongoing replacement of masks, filters, distilled water, tubes, and cleaning supplies. Your loved one with sleep apnea might appreciate the thoughtfulness, especially if they don’t have extended health benefits to cover these costs.
9. Dream Catcher Red Light Pen. I love this little item. For those who want to journal in the evening, or wake up in the middle of the night and want to jot down an important thought (to clear their mind so they can get back to sleep), or maybe they’re someone who likes to write down their dreams in the night before they forget (I don’t necessarily recommend that for sleep, but some people like to do this), this is a cool way to avoid sleep-sabotaging blue light exposure overnight.
10. Amber coloured night lights. When nature calls in the night, avoid tripping as well blue light exposure. A nice stocking stuffer for anyone, but particularly your elderly loved one? Or maybe it’s time to replace the white night light in your children’s bedroom with one that reduces blue light.
11. Amber coloured book light. For those who can’t sleep and want to read in the night without turning on bright lights, this Hooga rechargeable amber book light is one such product.
12. Weighted blankets. Sleep Me (formerly known as ChiliSleep) carries a top-notch weighted blanket. I haven’t tried it myself, but many people swear by it. They have a holiday promo going on right now with 25% off all sleep systems and bedding.
13. Cooling pads. Perhaps the coolest gift ever. Literally. And my #1 fave! I love this product so much. Stay cool in the summer (a life-saver during heat waves!), reduce the suffering and sleep disruption of menopausal hot flashes and other medical conditions, and keep snuggly warm in the winter. Comes in “Me” and “We” sizes, so bed partners can choose their own settings. How cool is that? Again, 25% off right now.
Did you notice? I didn't even mention a new mattress!
Of course, if you’re looking for the full deal for recovering from chronic insomnia, we have several options for sharing the gold-standard strategies of CBT-I. Our self-paced course might just make a perfect gift.
You know, there’s one thing I hear over and over from people suffering from insomnia: few people in their lives get it. What a simple way to show you care. Whether you celebrate Christmas or not, if you or a loved one are struggling with insomnia, any time is a perfect time for better sleep.
Share the love – and the sleep ❤️
Know someone struggling with insomnia? Feel free to forward this article to anyone who could benefit from learning how to sleep well again.
Looking for more help to get your sleep back on track? Check out our options to help you finally get the sleep you need. Interested in gold-standard one-on-one CBT-I? Book a free 15-minute phone consult. Or sign up instantly for our brand new therapist-guided digital CBT-I program or the self-paced online program on Effective Natural Strategies for Chronic Insomnia.