Still More Gifts for the Sleepless

It’s Cyber Monday, and maybe you’re looking for just the right gift for someone with insomnia. Not to worry.

Here are some suggestions for holiday gifts this year. (And if none of these suggestions appeal, check out my 2013 and 2014 holiday gift blogs.)

insomnia sufferers may enjoy several inexpensive holiday giftsIt’s Cyber Monday, and maybe you’re looking for just the right gift for someone with insomnia. Not to worry.

Here are some suggestions for holiday gifts this year. (And if none of these suggestions appeal, check out my 2013 and 2014 holiday gift blogs.)

Shiatsu Massage Pillow

Shiatsu massage pillows mimic the way it feels to have someone massaging your body, and kneading the tension out of tight muscles is helpful for people with sleep problems due to stress. But Lesley, a woman who shares comments on this website from time to time, found another use for hers. She was undergoing sleep restriction therapy for insomnia and having a tough time staying awake until her prescribed bedtime. To keep herself from nodding off too early, she sat up reading with a shiatsu massage pillow. It provided just enough stimulation to keep her from falling asleep. All the major department stores sell them from $30 to $60.

Cashmere Wrist Warmers

Do you love reading in bed but hate the way your hands and wrists get cold in the the wintertime? Knitted wrist warmers will solve that problem, and cashmere’s soft and warm. Even for those who avoid reading in bed (as insomniacs are advised to do), wrist warmers are a great wintertime gift. They’re good for sitting up late at night after you’ve had your shower and your body’s beginning to chill down. Many companies that make them are in the UK. Celtic & Co. sells them for $53 a pair. Order early: they take 7 to 10 business days to ship.

Wake-Up Light Alarm Clock

Night owls and light-sensitive sleepers are in trouble when they have to rise ‘n’ shine in the dark. Getting out of bed is a trial, never mind finding the energy to get out the door and the alertness to actually think or work. An alarm clock equipped to simulate the sunrise may alleviate the problem. These devices start to brighten gradually half an hour before a person’s normal rise time, so night owls will feel more aroused and alert when the alarm goes off. Philips makes two—the HF3510 and the HF3520—that sell for $111 and $115 on Amazon. The HF3471, a larger wake-up light endorsed by the National Sleep Foundation, sells for $201.

Escape Sleep Mask

Sleep masks are useful for anyone who’s sensitive to light at night, but this sleep mask is a twofer. Not only does it protect the light-sensitive from being awakened by moonlight streaming in the window or lights on a plane. With small cut-outs on the eye side, the mask avoids applying pressure to the eyelids, which can be very helpful for people with dry eye and other painful eye conditions common among short sleepers. The Dry Eye Company sells this mask for $22.

Euromild Low Acid Coffee

Any coffee lovers with sensitive stomachs out there? Finding a low-acid coffee that gives you a boost in the morning without hurting your stomach can be a real challenge—take it from one who knows! After sampling a few, I’ve found only one I like and can tolerate: Euromild. Made from 100 percent Arabica coffee, it’s smoother and less bitter than any other coffee I know. Just take care to drink it in moderation early in the day. Coffee Specialties sells a 14-oz. bag for $13.95.

The Savvy Insomniac

Give your friend or family member this A-to-Z guide to improving sleep and stamina. There’s no more comprehensive book about insomnia on the market today. Print and Kindle versions available from Amazon. Epub format available through other online booksellers, including Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and iBookstore.

Sleep Hygiene: Revisiting the Rules

A few weeks ago I blogged about managing insomnia by doing whatever works. It turns out that sleep experts (some of whom also struggle with insomnia) flaunt a few rules of good sleep hygiene themselves—regardless of recommendations they make to us.

exercise-nightA few weeks ago I blogged about managing insomnia by doing whatever works. It turns out that sleep experts (some of whom also struggle with insomnia) flaunt a few rules of good sleep hygiene themselves—regardless of recommendations they make to us.

You’ve heard that insomniacs are not supposed to read, eat, or watch TV in bed? Sleep expert David N. Neubauer has a qualified view on this.

“I think the ‘no reading in bed’ rule makes sense for chronic insomniacs,” Neubauer, associate professor at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, is quoted as saying in an article in Huffington Post, “but I find reading relaxing. I feel like I can put the book down when I get tired.”

Dr. W. Christopher Winter, medical director of the Martha Jefferson Hospital Sleep Medicine Center in Charlottesville, Virginia counsels his patients to work out early in the day. Yet he himself gets more of a benefit from exercising at 10 or 11 p.m. He also takes daytime naps—another thing insomniacs are routinely advised to avoid.

How Much Stock Should You Put in the Rules of Sleep Hygiene?

The suggestions you see in magazines and on the web exist for good reasons. Either they’re validated by scientific studies—such as the rule about going to bed and getting up at the same time every day—or based on observations made by clinicians, such as the advice to get up and do something when you can’t sleep rather lying in bed awake.

But each and every rule may not have value for all insomniacs. How could it be otherwise, when the sleepless are such a motley crew? Some of us have trouble getting to sleep; others, trouble staying asleep. Bad nights leave some insomniacs with short tempers; they leave others of us with brains that rattle along in second gear and never reach cruising speed.

Such a diverse array of symptoms implies to me that the causal mechanisms of our insomnias are probably different. So how could remedies proffered to the masses be uniformly beneficial to all?

Overall, I think we’re wise to pay attention to the rules of good sleep hygiene. But we’re also wise to experiment and find what works best for us.

Which rules of sleep hygiene are helpful to you, and which are not?