sleep week

The Best Gifts for Insomniacs, According to an Insomniac

Photo: 20th Century Fox

Finding the perfect holiday gift can be maddening — is this the color they’d want? Is it something they already have? Is it so last year? — but really, once you have a sense of a person’s taste, it’s not impossible. This season, we’ll be talking to members of various tribes (we’re calling them the Hard-to-Shop-Fors) to find out exactly what to get that serious home cook, skin-care Redditor, or gamer in your life. Think of it as a window into their brain trust — or at least a very helpful starting point.

We all know people who have an especially hard time sleeping. Maybe they always wake up the in middle of the night, or they’re just reluctant night owls. These people need sleep, and the best gift you could possibly give them is a few extra hours of REM.

I spoke with self-identified “insomniac” Cori DeCicco, who has done a lot her own research into the matter. DeCicco has had trouble falling asleep and staying asleep as long as she can remember. “I try to be in bed by 10 p.m.,” says DeCicco. “And I usually wake up around 1 or 2 a.m. and eventually fall back asleep.” Regardless of when she gets to bed, DeCicco is up for good between 4 and 6 a.m., so she really needs to make the most of the time she can get. DeCicco walked us through the things she has found helpful, and the items on her wish list. Don’t miss all of the Strategist’s holiday gift coverage right here, too.

DeCicco went with the URPOWER for the same reasons most people do: “It was the best-reviewed option on Amazon, and it’s a great price.” She uses it with lavender essential oil to relax.

If you’re like DeCicco and buying a diffuser for yourself, you probably will think more about about function and value, but it’s nice to splurge a little on a gift for someone else. The Vitruvi is much more design-minded than your average diffuser, so it feels more like a special gift and less like a small appliance. The matte ceramic cover and organic shape make it stand out from the pack.

If you want to give someone the benefits of sleep-inducing aromatherapy but think they would rather not to deal with an electric diffuser, the Bodha Calm Ritual Spray is a great option.

“I’ve been thinking a lot about weighted blankets lately,” says DeCicco. When she wakes up in the middle of the night, it can be hard to fall back asleep. “There’s an anxiety aspect to it.” She wakes up at 1 or 2 a.m., and then can’t help thinking about everything she has to do the next day. She wants to fall back to sleep right away so she can function in the morning, but of course it’s a self-perpetuating cycle — worrying about not getting enough sleep makes it harder to sleep. A weighted blanket is at the top of DeCicco’s wish list because she has read that the physical sensation of extra “gravity” can give people something to focus on, encouraging relaxation and eventually — hopefully — sleep.

Another thing DeCicco wants to try is meditation. “I like the Headspace app,” she says. She especially appreciates that Headspace has some guided meditations specifically designed for sleep. “And the guy has a nice, relaxing, therapeutic voice.”

When DeCicco wakes up late at night, she sometimes will try reading a book to help her relax and fall back to sleep. She uses a red bulb in her bedside lamp because it’s a gentle light, and if she’s with her boyfriend it doesn’t wake him up. “My roommate actually bought it for Halloween a few years ago and I decided to keep it … It’s really great. It doesn’t hurt your eyes and it makes your house look like a goth rave.”

If you feel weird about giving someone a red LED bulb, this salt lamp would also be a great addition to a bedside table with its soft amber light. We like this fair-trade model.

On the other hand, if you want go all-in on the red LED bulb gift, you could try the Philip’s Hue Starter Kit. The best thing about the Hue system is you can customize every bulb in your room or house with the Hue app, so you shift everything to orange or red at night and then to bright white in the morning.

This is another great option for reading at night. The Somnilite’s bulbs are specially made to give off a soft orange light, which does not interfere with circadian rhythms (unlike the jarring bright-white light emitted by most book lights).

Light disturbance is one of the most common sleep-cycle disruptors, and sleep masks make a much nicer gift than blackout curtains. The Lunya silk sleep mask is 100 percent washable silk, and it comes in a variety of colors.

DeCicco buys chopped dried kava root in bulk from a local spot and brews it into a tea at night: “I just add a few spoonfuls to a teapot and then hot water.” She says it can taste pretty bitter and isn’t for everyone, but it helps her relax. She also likes Yogi’s Kava Stress Relief tea.

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The Best Gifts for Insomniacs, According to an Insomniac