Share on Pinterest

We include products we think are useful for our readers. If you buy through links on this page, we may earn a small commission. Here’s our process.

There are a lot of new, high-tech sleep gadgets on the market right now.

From wearables to fancy lights to mattress pad sensors and soothing white noise, there are a lot of products to choose from.

But what if all you need to get those elusive Zzz’s is a little piece of fabric covering your eyes?

Sure, sleep masks aren’t anything new or buzzworthy, but this simple solution can be just what you need to get your requisite shut-eye.

They may help you maintain your natural sleep cycles and catch up on some very important beauty sleep.

Eye masks or sleep masks work by blocking out artificial light.

“Light, especially at night, can disrupt our internal biological ‘clock’ that helps to regulate our sleep-wake patterns,” says Dr. Wendy Troxel, senior behavioral scientist at the RAND Corporation.

Exposure to artificial light suppresses melatonin, the sleep-inducing hormone, which can lead to sleeping issues or disorders such as insomnia.

“Melatonin’s job is to signal to the brain that it is time to get sleepy, so light exposure, particularly at night, sends the wrong signal to the brain, which can profoundly disrupt one’s ability to fall asleep quickly and stay asleep,” Troxel explains.

Depending on where you live, this artificial light can include streetlights, ambient lights in the bedroom (such as light from a clock), and the biggest culprit for disrupted sleep: blue light from phones and electronic devices.

Intrusive light can result in shallower periods of sleep.

Eye masks help to block out this artificial light by acting as a shield. They realign your body’s internal body clock with the rising and setting of the sun.

It’s important to find a sleep mask that works for you.

When choosing a sleep mask, look out for shape, size, material, and weight.

You want your sleep mask to be comfortable enough that it doesn’t bother you or prevent you from falling asleep. If it’s too tight or causes irritation, it won’t be much use.

Shape

There’s a range of different shapes on the market when it comes to sleeping masks, so it’s important to find one that fits your face and rests comfortably while you snooze at night.

You can opt for something flat, like Fishers Finery Silk Travel Sleep Mask.

Another option is a contoured mask, like the Nidra Deep Rest Eye Mask, which has cups that rest over your eyes. This is helpful if you find fabric on your eyelids ticklish.

Size

You want to make sure your mask sits comfortably on your face but is still tight enough to do its job. The idea is to keep out the light while not being so tight that it gives you a headache.

Many sleeping masks on the market come with adjustable straps, which is perfect for making sure your mask fits snugly over your head.

Try the COLD POSH Silk Sleep Mask with adjustable straps. It’s made with a mulberry silk and cotton blend for a super soft feel.

Material

Sleeping masks come in various fabrics, each with their own benefits.

Cotton provides a soft feel and is fairly inexpensive. Try the Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask.

Silk may be a bit pricey, but it won’t eat up skin care products like eye creams and face moisturizers. It also reduces friction around the delicate eye area.

If you prefer silk, try the Slip Sleep Mask for a luxurious snooze.

You can also get combination masks, such as the Lunya Washable Silk Mask, which has a silk exterior and polyester filling.

Some masks are also made with foam, such as the Wild Essentials Escape Sleep Mask. This helps the mask keep its shape and prevent it from brushing your eyelids.

Weight

Most eye masks will list being lightweight as a benefit.

However, if you’re after something a little heavier, there are weighted eye masks on the market that add light pressure for stress relief.

To help relax tension in the eyes, try the Gravity Blanket Weighted Sleep Mask or the Therapedic Weighted Eye Mask.

Light blocking

Some masks are made of light-colored fabric or don’t cover enough area to fully block light. Other sleep masks are designed to have a blackout effect that lets in no light at all.

This is especially important if you find that even the smallest amount of light affects your sleep quality.

The Manta Sleep Mask is one such option that claims to block out 100 percent of light.

Hot/cold

There are also sleep masks on the market that allow for variations in temperature. These can be helpful if you get headaches.

It can be extremely soothing to add a bit of extra warmth to the eyes while sleeping, and a cool mask can help ease sleep in hot weather.

Many masks can be put in the microwave and stored in the freezer so you can change up your temperature options.

Try the Zomaple Gel Beads Eye Mask or the Kimkoo Moist Heat Eye Compress.

Some sleep masks may help with dry eyes, styes, or gland issues, though there’s no evidence to support this.

These masks are designed to work by creating a seal between the skin around the eyes, preventing moisture from escaping and drafts, dust, and low humidity air from seeping in.

“Sleeping with masks is typically helpful for those who have incomplete eyelid closure,” says Willy Gunawan, optometrist at Collins St. Optometrists in Australia. This condition can cause drying and itching in the eyes.

“But even in the absence of confirmed incomplete eyelid closure, there is no harm in trying to sleep with a mask for a few nights,” says Gunawan. “You can continue or discontinue wearing one should you find/not find any relief on your dry eye symptoms in the morning.”

Gunawan is skeptical about their use for other conditions. “[I] wouldn’t think eye masks would help styes or gland issues much,” he says.

If you want to try a sealing mask option, check out the Tranquileyes Mini Sleep Mask or the Eyeseals 4.0 Hydrating Sleep Mask.

Sleep is vital for our physical and mental well-being. Most adults need around 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night.

Losing sleep can have major effects on your health. If you find that cutting out light helps you get your rest, a sleep mask may be just what you need to reap the health benefits below.

More REM sleep

Research from 2010 has shown that the use of eye masks can result in more REM time, shorter REM latency, and elevated levels of melatonin. This helps to promote healthy sleep patterns and hormone balance.

Decreased risk of disease

“Sleep is vital to every aspect of our health, functioning, and productivity. We know that sleep problems are associated with increased risk of chronic health conditions, like heart disease, and may even accelerate risk for Alzheimer’s disease,” explains Troxel.

Other health risks associated with poor sleep include diabetes and cardiovascular problems.

Reduced risk of obesity

Getting regular good night’s sleep has been shown to help with weight maintenance and metabolism.

Evidence suggests that weight changes take place when people get less than 7 hours of sleep per night. According to one 2008 study, short sleep duration increased the odds of obesity by 89 percent in children and 55 percent in adults.

Short sleep duration is also shown to affect levels of the hunger hormones leptin and ghrelin, meaning those who are sleep-deprived are more likely to feel hungry.

Better immunity

Sleep plays a role in boosting immune function.

A 1996 study showed that people who missed sleep had repressed immunity, while a study from 2009 showed that people who slept less than 7 hours per night were more likely to get a cold.

Increased brain health

Healthy amounts of sleep are associated with alertness, attentiveness, and the ability to make decisions.

Sleep affects memory and concentration as well as cognitive and motor performance. Getting enough sleep can increase problem-solving abilities.

A 2000 study even found that sleep deprivation can affect the brain in a similar way to being intoxicated with alcohol.

Improved mental health

Sleep loss has been linked to depression, with about 90 percent of people with depression reporting that they experience sleep issues.

Individuals with sleep-related conditions also report higher rates of depression, and some research suggests that loss of sleep is related to an increased risk of death by suicide.

A sleep mask can help you get a better night’s sleep by blocking out artificial light and helping to maintain hormone balance.

There are plenty of options out there, so shop around and find what works for you.

The right sleep mask may just be the key to sound sleep and all the health benefits that go with it.


Marnie Vinall is a freelance writer living in Melbourne, Australia. She’s written extensively for a range of publications covering everything from politics and mental health to nostalgic sandwiches and the state of her own vagina. You can reach Marnie via Twitter, Instagram, or her website.