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Do you deal with a lot of annoying lights when you’re trying to sleep? Whether it’s from lights on in the house, your sleep partner’s reading light, or even the sun, it can be hard to rest your tired eyes if you’re putting all your energy toward ignoring that light!
Many people choose to wear an eye mask to bed each night to protect their eyes— and their sleep— from ambient light. An eye mask can help you get the rejuvenating deep sleep you need to feel rested in the morning by blocking out light that can keep you awake. But they’re not just a fancy blindfold— there are many different sleep masks available, all with some real benefits that can take your sleep to the next level.
The Benefits of Wearing an Eye Mask
Sleep masks can lead to improved sleep quality and more restorative sleep.
One report published by the Journal of Advanced Nursing observed the effect sleep masks had on patients sleeping in the intensive care unit, an environment with a lot of obtrusive light and sound. They found that the patients that wore eye masks had improved sleep quality since they were no longer bothered by the external light. Additionally, patients who used both an eye mask and ear plugs experienced even greater improvements in sleep quality.
Another study had similar results. Researchers found that participants that used an eye mask and ear plugs together experienced more REM sleep. They also experienced fewer nighttime arousals and had higher melatonin levels.
Eye masks are also great to have when you’re traveling. It can be hard to get a good night’s sleep away from home— especially if you need to sleep through a long flight, and then sleep in an unfamiliar place. A comfy eye mask can help block out any extra light and put your mind at ease for a restful night’s sleep.
A good sleep mask is also helpful if you share the bed with another person— especially if their sleep schedule is different from yours.
Why It Can Be Tricky to Choose an Eye Mask
When you think of an eye mask, you probably think of the straightforward ones you often see at the store. However, there are multiple different types of eye masks out there, each with its specific perks.
- Cloth mask: These are probably what come to mind first. These are simple masks that are made out of cloth and are typically secured with an elastic band.
- Weighted mask: If you’ve ever used a weighted blanket— like the ones from Remzy— then a weighted mask works the same way! These masks apply light pressure to your face, which can be helpful for tension around the eyes, as well as nighttime headaches or migraines.
- Beaded gel mask: These masks can feel like a day at the spa! That’s because they’re filled with gel beads that can be warmed or cooled before you put on the mask. A cooling mask can help reduce puffiness around your eyes, and both can help with headaches, migraines, or sinus pain. However, these are more helpful for letting you relax than they are for blocking light.
- Contoured mask: Contoured masks are made with light foam so that they can fit the contours of your face more effectively. The foam pieces around your eyes are especially helpful in blocking extra light.
What to Consider When You Buy An Eye Mask
Buying an eye mask may seem like a no-brainer— as long as it covers your eyes, it should work, right? Not quite. There are actually a few essential elements you need to consider before you buy one.
Put simply, this is how well an eye mask blocks out unwanted light. If your eye mask doesn’t block out enough light, then it probably won’t help you sleep better.
Shape and Fit
When it comes to eye masks, “one size fits all” does not always apply. You want to make sure your sleep mask fits your entire face properly— especially around your eye and nose area. An ill-fitting mask can be uncomfortable or cumbersome while you’re trying to rest.
Many masks include flaps or elastic that allow them to fit different sizes. Size isn’t the only important factor though— the shape of your sleep mask can make a big difference too.
Many eye masks are generally flat, but this can be a problem if you have long eyelashes. Flat eye masks can potentially graze your eyelashes or eyebrows during the night. To solve this, many masks are made with recesses that cover your eyes. These pull double duty by helping block out extra light, and keep the mask itself from irritating your eye area.
Just like with what you wear to bed, sleep masks come in many different fabrics. And like your sleepwear, these different materials each have their different pros and cons.
While the fabric may seem unimportant at first, it’s actually a crucial factor. When it comes to eye masks, you want a fabric that can block light well, won’t irritate your skin, and won’t cause fine lines or wrinkles around your nose and eye area.
Here are some of the most common materials in sleep masks:
Cotton is an excellent material for eye masks, because it’s soft, lightweight, and blocks unwanted light well. Cotton eye masks are also sturdy, easy to wash, and inexpensive.
Cotton is also breathable, moisture-wicking, and very helpful if you get warm or sweaty during the night. However, this may be a potential downside if you wear any night creams while you sleep— cotton eye masks can absorb these and make them less effective.
Silk is often considered the best fabric for sleep masks. Silk is soft, luxurious, and has excellent light-blocking capabilities. It’s also light and gentle on the delicate skin around your eyes. However, silk can be tricky to take care of, and it’s not as sturdy as the other fabrics listed here. Silk eye masks also tend to be more expensive than those made of other fabrics.
Satin is a combination of silk and cotton, so you’ll get the best of both worlds here. Satin is lightweight and breathable while also being great at blocking unwanted light. It’s also more durable than silk, and easier to take care of.
Like cotton, polyester is durable, lightweight, and inexpensive. It can also absorb oils and night creams from your skin. Unlike cotton though, polyester is not moisture-wicking, and can actually make you sweat during the night.
Style may not matter as much to some as it does for others, but if you want to sleep in style, there are plenty of options! Eye masks come in a variety of colors and patterns. So if you want something that’ll match your favorite pajamas— or if you just want something simple— there’s a sleep mask out there for you!
Extra Bells and Whistles
Remember— a sleep mask isn’t just a blindfold. Modern sleep masks can have some very fancy features! Some of these can include:
- Sensors that are compatible with a special sleep tracker app
- Light therapy
- Ambient sounds to help you drift off to sleep
If any of these sound particularly exciting, then one of these masks would be an excellent option! Otherwise, you might benefit more from a simpler mask.
Prices on eye masks can run the gamut from inexpensive to spendy. Most people don’t want to spend a fortune on an eye mask. Thankfully though, there are many options available so you can find something that works for you without breaking the bank.
The Best Eye Mask For You: The Sleep Doctor’s Recommendations
Taking a look at customer reviews can help a lot when it comes to picking the right eye mask for your sleep needs. But there are still a lot of options out there. Even if you know what you want, it can be hard to pick one with so many options. So here are a few of my personal recommendations.
The Best Overall Eye Mask: Manta Sleep Mask
My personal favorite eye mask is from Manta Sleep. The manta sleep mask is a contoured mask with adjustable cups, so you can adjust the mask to your personal eye position. Speaking of the cups, they provide a dark and comfortable place to rest your eyes that won’t put any pressure on them or your eyelashes. You can even swap out the eye cups if you want a nice cooling effect, or a different kind of cup like their silk cups.
This is the sleep eye mask that my family and I use nightly.
The Best Cotton Eye Mask: FRĒSHMĒ Cotton Sleep Mask
This cotton sleep mask from FRĒSHMĒ has amazing blackout capability, is super soft and comfortable, and it’s an awesome bang for your buck. This is a great sleep mask whether you’re at home or on the go.
The Best Silk Eye Mask: Colorado Home Co. Sleep Mask
This sleep mask from Colorado Home Co. is made from 100 percent pure mulberry silk, and it is absolutely luxurious. This mask has very good blackout capability, and is gentle on your face and eyelashes. So if you’re concerned about fine lines or eye masks putting too much pressure on your eyelashes, this is a great option for you.
The Best Weighted Eye Mask: BARMY Weighted Sleep Mask
This weighted sleep mask from BARMY is like a gentle hug for your eyes. The light weight of this eye mask provides gentle, relaxing pressure around your face, which can help relieve nighttime migraines and help you sleep better.
Thanks to the micro-glass beads inside, you can also use this as a cooling eye mask. Just pop it into the freezer for up to 2 hours before you wear it.
The Best High-Tech Eye Mask: CINCOM Eye Massager
If you’re looking for a sleep mask with lots of extra bells and whistles, this is the one for you! The CINCOM Eye Massager uses infrared heating to help promote microcirculation around your eyes, which can help with dry eyes and dark under-eye circles.
It also has a built-in Bluetooth speaker so you can play your favorite music or some relaxing sounds to lull you off to sleep.
The Best Multi-Function Eye Mask: Dēp Slēpwear Midweight Long Sleeve Sleep Hoodie
As you can tell from the name, this isn’t just an eye mask— it’s an entire sleep hoodie! This awesome mask and hoodie from Dēp Slēpwear is the whole package for a good night’s sleep. The hood masks ambient sounds that can keep you awake, the sleep mask blocks light excellently, and Dēp Slēpwear’s unique fabric blend helps keep you cool and comfortable all night long.
I use this one quite often on flights as well as my first layer. The hood and eye mask make resting on the plane easy!
Don’t Let the Stars Get Into Your Eyes
An eye mask isn’t necessary for restful sleep, but it can really help! This is especially true if you’re easily bothered by ambient light, or if you need to sleep during the day.
There’s a lot more to eye masks than just a piece of fabric and an elastic band— and it may be daunting to choose one with so many different kinds out there. But there’s one out there for every individual sleep need. I hope this helps narrow it down!
Michael J. Breus, PhD, FAASM
The Sleep Doctor