What are the Benefits of a Sleep Mask?

Sleep masks aren’t just a fashion statement. Learn the 5 health benefits of sleeping masks in this guide.

Sleeping masks have long been associated with women who love luxury and are particular about having complete darkness to improve their sleep quality. However, these eye masks are actually recommended by dermatologists, hairdressers, beauty professionals and sleep experts for the myriad of benefits they can have on your sleep, skin and mood. Read on to discover the reasons to consider wearing a sleep mask at night.

Benefit 1: Encourages Deeper Sleep
It’s been proven many times over that intrusive light at night interrupts your body’s natural levels of hormone production, so experts recommend creating a “bat cave” setting, or total darkness, for sleep. Today, sleepers struggle with even more intrusive forms of light pollution, namely blue light from electronics, which make creating total darkness more challenging than simply pulling the curtains shut.

Eye masks encourage deeper sleep by blocking light to create the blackout your body desires, which in turn regulates your circadian rhythm and signals to your body that it’s time to produce melatonin and other rest-inducing chemicals. When it’s dark, more melatonin is produced, and the amount of melatonin in your body is directly correlated with how deeply you’re able to fall into the sleep cycle.

Benefit 2: Helps with Anti-Aging
Similar to sleeping on a silk pillowcase, sleep masks made from silk and other gentle, lightweight materials may reduce under-eye bags and prevent wrinkles in the long-term. Masks that are made from 100% natural, breathable materials that are washed regularly with scent-free detergent can also help people struggling with acne by improving sleep. After all, inadequate sleep is a known aggravator of cysts and pimples in acne-prone skin.

Benefit 3: Makes Traveling Better
Sleeping on a plane, train or in a car is hardly ideal, but it becomes a necessity when you’re on a long road trip, traveling cross-country or embarking on a red eye flight. In-flight sleep has been proven to be less efficient and cause more frequent awakenings than sleep in a hotel or at home, and a sleep mask may help improve its duration and quality. If you travel frequently, look for a sleep mask that’s designed to be space-saving, can double as a pillow and has noise-blocking features.

Benefit 4: Helps Dry Eyes
If you suffer from chronically dry eyes or sensitive skin around the eyes, a sleep mask can prevent further nighttime drying and irritation by protecting your eyes from air, dust and other irritants. This is especially true if your home is centrally heated or cooled, as this can stir up dust, pet hair and more that you didn’t know was lying around.

Similarly, a sleep mask can help people who have nocturnal lagophthalmos, or the inability to close the eyelids when fully asleep. At night, our eyelids lubricate and protect our eyes, and people who don’t experience this can wake with very dry eyes. A sleep mask can encourage the eyelids to relax and fully close.

Benefit 5: Improves Mental Health
If you experience deeper sleep due to a sleep mask, there’s no doubt that your overall mental and emotional health will improve. But weighted sleep masks offer a special advantage when it comes to mental health benefits, acting as a weighted blanket for the eyes to help alleviate headaches, eye strain and stress. When used as sleep aids, weighted eye masks provide a sense of grounding to the eye area and may trigger the release of healthy hormones that can calm your nerves and induce rest.

Of course, we are the Mattress Nerds, and we’ve got to at least suggest another great addition to your sleep setup and self-care routine: a whole new mattress. If you’ve had yours for seven years or more, it may be time to start shopping around for a new one.

What to Look for in a Sleeping Mask
Here’s a list of shopping considerations to keep in mind when you’re looking for a new sleep mask to help you settle into a deep, rejuvenating slumber:

Material—The most popular sleep mask materials include cotton, silk, polyester, foam and beads. Each material has different benefits, so choose the option that feels best against your facial skin. Silk, for example, has a smooth and shiny appearance and may prevent puffiness and signs of aging. Masks filled with beads have added pressure for stress relief and may also feature heating and cooling effects.

Fit—When you put on a sleep mask, make sure no light comes in and that it feels comfortable to wear. Sleep masks come in many varieties, from those that cover the whole face or just the eyes to versions that drape with weight over the eyes and temples. Masks with adjustable straps are also available, which will allow you to customize the fit.

Sleeping Position—Just like a new pillow or new mattress, your sleeping position should be a major consideration when buying a sleep blindfold. If you’re a side sleeper, avoid thick, bulky masks that you’ll feel when turning over. Back sleepers should opt for deep eye masks that will block light from every angle, and stomach sleepers do best with thin, lightweight masks that will feel comfortable when their face comes into close contact with the pillow or mattress.

Primary Use—Evaluate where you plan to use the mask to sleep better. If you’re aiming for better sleep when you travel, choose a travel-friendly mask with easy storage, like a carrying case, and a lightweight design. If you’re looking for the best sleep mask for a good night’s sleep at home, a more substantially-sized or expensive mask may be more appropriate.

Added Benefits—Sleep masks come in all shapes and sizes, and many have special features that can appeal to certain sleepers. For example, some sleep masks feature aromatherapy with lavender and other sleep-inducing infusions. Others come with earplugs, have contoured eye sockets to protect the eyelashes or have gel-pockets to reduce puffy eyes.

Sleep Mask FAQs
Are sleeping masks bad for you?
The only downside of sleeping with a mask is that it may cause skin irritation if you have very sensitive skin. This is especially true if the mask is worn for too long or is dirty, so whatever mask you choose, make sure the fabric is breathable and can be washed easily. Your individual eye mask will come with its own set of instructions, but washing every few days is generally recommended.

Can I use a sleeping mask every day?
A sleeping mask can be used as often as your skin can tolerate it. We recommend working up to seven days a week when you’re trying to fix your lack of sleep, but once your sleep patterns are regulated, try backing off to two or three times a week to avoid skin irritation and reduce your body’s reliance on the mask.

What are the pros and cons of eye masks?
Sleep masks block light, induce relaxation, protect the delicate skin around your eyes, protect your eyes from dust, dander and other irritants, may help you fall asleep faster and can reduce the formation of wrinkles over time. Downsides of sleep masks may include reliance on the mask in order to achieve shut-eye and eye irritation if the mask is not regularly cleaned.

Are sleep masks bad for your eyelashes?
Low-quality sleep masks have the potential to damage your eyelashes. For example, rough, cotton masks may increase friction with the lashes and eyebrows, causing them to fall out more quickly. Side sleepers may also notice lashes that grow in an unnatural direction because they are pressed down against the mask throughout the night.

Are sleep face masks good for your skin?
Yes, a sleep mask is a protective layer between you and your pillow, mattress and bed sheets. If you’ve ever woken up with impressions of a wrinkled pillowcase on your face, you may be less likely to experience this when you wear a sleep mask at night.

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Check out the top 10 best sleeping mask on the market right now here.