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March 16, 2021/Living Healthy/Sleep

The Case for Wearing a Sleep Mask

Here's why you might want to give it a try

Person asleep on their back in bed with an eye mask on and one arm above their head

With the promise of taking “beauty sleep” to the next level, sleep masks are available in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials. But do they help you sleep better?

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“It depends on the person,” says sleep expert Samuel Gurevich, MD. “People need to find out what works best for them. A safe, calm environment is important for a good night’s rest, and blocking out light is part of that. Eye masks can help, especially if your normal sleeping time is during the day.”

Dr. Gurevich discusses getting your best rest by using eye covers for sleep.

Do sleep masks work?

A sleep mask is a fabric eye mask used for sleeping benefits. And while Dr. Gurevich says there isn’t a lot of research supporting their effectiveness, anecdotally, they seem to help.

“Staying alert is the body’s response to a dangerous environment. Thousands of years ago, the people who fell asleep easily, especially if it was loud and busy outside, were the ones eaten by the saber-toothed tigers. Those who were appropriately alert survived, and so did their genes,” explains Dr. Gurevich.

“That’s why many need their environment just right to fall asleep. It normally needs to be safe, comfortable and without a lot of stimulation, including artificial light or a TV playing in the background,” he continues. “Eye masks can help achieve this because they create that dark, quiet room.”

Who should try a mask for sleep?

Dr. Gurevich says that while anyone could benefit from wearing a sleep mask, you may find them particularly useful if you:

  • Don’t have blackout curtains where you sleep.
  • Have insomnia.
  • Work a night shift.

Sleep mask benefits

“Putting on an eye cover for sleep can be part of a calming bedtime routine that conditions your brain to recognize everything’s safe, calm and comfortable. Your routine tells the brain it’s time to shut off and let sleep come,” says Dr. Gurevich.

Because sleep masks can help you fall asleep faster, they may increase the amount of sleep you get. Good quality sleep can improve your:

“Longer-term benefits of good healthy sleep include a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke,” adds Dr. Gurevich. “Sleep is one of the unsung heroes of our health. We tend to take it for granted and borrow from it, but it affects every part of your life.”

How to find the right eye mask for sleeping benefits

Dr. Gurevich recommends choosing a mask for sleep that feels comfortable. “It’s a highly individualized decision. Some people like a soft, fuzzy surface. Others prefer a shiny one,” he says. “There are also people who find good results from cooling or heating eye masks.”

Your sleep mask should fit not too tightly and remain comfortable even when you sleep on your side. “Focus on what feels the best instead of what looks the best, and you’ll find the right eye mask for you.”

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