8 Benefits of Sleep Masks
As Spring approaches, the days grow longer with more hours of daylight available. Light is a factor that can play havoc on our bodies affecting our sleep cycle. Do you know that people who work the night shift are more susceptible to sleep disorders? With today's always-connected lifestyle and with only 1/3 to 1/4 of us getting the required 7-9 hours of sleep, the effects on our bodies can be compounded.
So how do we get the sleep we need when it? Well, you're in luck! There is a relatively inexpensive solution - a sleep mask! Don't believe me? Here are 8 benefits that these little bad boys provide:
8 Benefits of Sleep Masks
1. Improve Sleep Quality
Humans are naturally diurnal: We’re awake during the day and sleep at night. Our brains are hard-wired into associating darkness with sleep.
In our modern context, however, we’re inundated with artificial light that can disrupt our sleep schedules. Even when we darken our bedrooms to the greatest extent possible, light from the street or other rooms has a habit of creeping in. Accordingly, our bodies receive mixed messages from the outside environment and our circadian rhythm suffers.
Our brains produce more melatonin (the hormone that controls our sleep and wake cycles) when they sense an absence of light. In addition to increased melatonin production, scientists have also linked dark sleeping conditions to increased time in REM sleep and decreased wakefulness. This means you’re more likely to sleep deeply and to sleep through the night which helps your body and brain process all of the activity of the pervious day and prepare you for the next day.
Scientists have also found these benefits when using sleep masks, not just in dark rooms. Sleep masks solve the problems related to intrusive light, granting the total darkness you deserve for great sleep. By sitting directly over your eyes, they can create a pitch-black environment in the brightest of bedrooms.
2. Minimize Distractions
Whether you’re checking Twitter, watching Netflix, or sending one last email, screens increase our alertness at the wrong time. Moreover, we often spend more time on these activities than intended, finally crashing long after we intended to head to bed.
Sleep masks are the perfect solution to this unhealthy compulsion. By putting it on as soon as you get into bed, you establish a boundary between yourself and your smartphone. You can always take your sleep mask off and check your phone, but this additional obstacle can be surprisingly helpful in maintaining sleep hygiene.
If you wake up in the middle of the night, sleep masks can also aid in another struggle: the urge to check your alarm clock. Staring at the clock will only increase your frustration at being up and your stress about the day ahead. A sleep mask encourages you to get back to sleep by blocking other stimuli.
3. Protect Your Skin and Prevent Puffiness
Contact with your pillow can stretch the skin on your face and especially around your eyes. Over time, this can lead to wrinkles. If you sleep on your side or stomach, the combination of the pressure against your skin and any rubbing on your pillowcase that makes impressions can lead to collagen breakdown—leading to crow’s feet. You can try a special pillow or pillowcase to help this, or you can try to sleep on your back (it’s not easy to change your sleep habit). Alternatively, you can get a sleep mask to protect the delicate skin around your eyes, where many people’s wrinkles first form. The sleep mask serves as a protective layer between you and your pillow, so you’re less likely to wake up with sheet lines on your face and therefore less likely to suffer collagen breakdown as rapidly.
If your skin concerns are more acne, it is possible that your chance of breaking out might increase a bit under your sleep mask. To mitigate this risk, make sure you choose a mask made from 100% natural, breathable materials like cotton or silk, and wash it regularly with scent-free detergent.
Sleep masks can also address puffiness or bags around your eyes as you awake. Puffiness is likely to occur when you’re short on sleep, so a mask may help you by ensuring that you get more rest. Some sleep mask products use innovative technologies to fight against puffy eyes: Certain masks use specific materials, such as charcoal, to reduce puffiness and dryness in the skin around your eyes sockets. Others use cool temperatures to address swelling -You stick them in your fridge or freezer, then let the cold work wonders around your eyes as you sleep.
4. Mitigate Migraines
Light sensitivity is a common feature of chronic migraines – and particularly problematic if they strike during daylight. Sleep masks provide the total darkness you need when a migraine hits. When the only thing to do is crawl into bed, your mask will ensure that light doesn’t interfere with your recovery.
Some masks provide cooling or heating features specifically designed to ease migraine pain. Many sufferers swear by masks that you can freeze or refrigerate, using the cold to numb out the throbbing effects of migraines. Even if you don’t experience migraines, these features may be appealing: These cold masks work just as well for hangovers and minor headaches.
5. Help Treat Dry Eyes
If you centrally heat or cool your home, dry air is filling your room and blowing on you while you’re sleeping, stirring up dust and pet hair that you didn’t notice was lying around. A humidifier can be help, but it won’t keep the recirculated air from blowing at your eyes. A sleep mask, however, creates a protective barrier over your eyes protecting them from these irritants.
Some individuals suffer from a condition called nocturnal lagophthalmos, which prevents them from completely closing their eyes while they’re asleep. Sleep masks provide a protective cocoon as you sleep, allowing you to wake without irritation.
6. Terrific for Travel
Sleep masks can go a long way toward creating your own sleep sanctuary ,when travelling. They block out light from windows and screens so you can get the sleep you need to arrive well-rested. Some include complementary earplugs to block out noise or have durable material that can endure constant travel or act as a pillow.
7. Cheaper Than Blackout Curtains
By now we can conclude that, the darker your room, the better your sleep. The only way to make your bedroom totally dark is with blackout curtains—a costly proposition if you’ve got big windows. And with today's digital communication and entertainment lifestyle, blue light is still an issue. The blue light that emanates from your smartphone and other screens has been shown to disrupt sleep cycles, much like the light from outside sources.
Sleep masks tend to be more affordable than alternative measures, such as blackout shades. They’re also superior to blackout shades in one essential way: They can block out blue light from devices inside your bedroom. When it’s time to limit your exposure and drift off to sleep, a sleep mask can block out the light from your devices.
8. Can Incorporate Special Features
Some sleep masks incorporate calming fragrances conducive to sleep. Lavender is the classic scent associated with improving sleep quality. Cedarwood and bergamot have also been linked with better sleep. If you’re worried about olfactory overload, some sleep masks allow you to remove the scented pouch or swap it for another smell.
Some sleep masks can be refrigerated to help provide relief to migraine sufferers, or even to help reduce puffiness around the eyes. Many contain hypoallergenic properties with some even containing eye misters for those who suffer from dry eyes, or providing soothing sounds to lull you to sleep.
Weighted sleep masks can provide many of the same benefits associated with weighted blankets. These masks exert gentle pressure on your face, stimulating the production of melatonin and serotonin for a pleasant sense of relaxation. These effects can be particularly helpful for those with sleep disorders or symptoms of psychological distress.
Be careful though: the feeling of any weight on your face at night can be alarming. But for those who appreciate a dose of calming pressure, adding some heft to your sleep mask could augment its benefits.
How To Choose Your Sleep Mask
There are a number of considerations when choosing a Sleep Mask:
- Prioritize models that correspond to your sleeping style. If you’re a side-sleeper, for example, make sure you pick a sleep mask that won’t slide off when it rubs against your pillow.
- Consider materials carefully as well: If you’re sensitive to synthetic fabrics, opt for a non-irritating or hypoallergenic textile like silk. Be similarly cautious about the fragrances you choose in scented sleep masks. While a particular smell might be irresistible in small doses, it could become cloying over the course of a full night.
- Once you’ve purchased a sleep mask, settle in for a period of adjustment. If you haven’t used one before, the experience of having your eyes covered could be uncomfortable. Give yourself at least one week with the sleep mask you choose, wearing it on a consistent basis. If it still doesn’t feel right, move on to an alternative that will resolve your specific complaints.
Once you find the right sleep mask, more restorative rest is likely to follow.
Here's to darker sleeps, leading to brighter wakes – and all the energy you need throughout the day!