Getting a good night’s sleep is essential to our daily health and overall well-being. But sadly, millions of Americans routinely struggle to get a restful night’s sleep, putting themselves at risk for chronic sleep deprivation and all of the negative health effects that come with it. If this sounds depressingly familiar, you might want to consider adding a high-quality sleep mask to your nightly routine. Sleep masks — also called “eye masks” — rest directly on your eyelids, blocking out sneaky sources of light that might otherwise sabotage your slumber.
Still not convinced you should get a sleep mask? Read on for seven benefits of eye masks that will make you never want to go to bed without one again.
1. Improves Sleep Quality and Duration
Eye masks are best known for their ability to usher in a great night’s sleep. One of the ways they accomplish this is by blocking out all light that creeps into the bedroom, creating a pitch black sleeping environment that is ideal for sleeping.
Exposing yourself to even a tiny amount of artificial light at night can signal your brain to stay awake, so creating a pitch black sleeping space is key to getting quality snooze. In fact, a 2017 study published in the journal Sleep found that greater exposure to light before bed was associated with less REM sleep, resulting in poorer sleep quality overall. That’s why experts stress the importance of avoiding artificial light — and artificial blue light in particular — for a better night’s sleep.
2. Calms the Mind and Body
Too anxious to sleep? We’ve all been there before. The next time your mind races before bed, try putting on an eye mask and taking slow, deep breaths. Eye masks make it easy to shut out the world and turn inward, so you can relax your muscles and focus on your breathing.
If you want to take your pre-bedtime relaxation up a notch, try wearing a weighted eye mask. Like their more popular sister, the weighted blanket, weighted eye masks utilize the power of deep pressure stimulation (DPS) to activate the body’s “rest and digest” system — helping to lower blood pressure and heart rate while decreasing the stress hormone cortisol.
3. Prevents Fine Lines and Wrinkles
If you sleep on your side or stomach, then you’re probably no stranger to waking up with creases and folds on one side of your face. These funny-looking facial markings, commonly known as “pillow lines,” typically fade within minutes after waking — until one day they don’t. Over time, pillow lines can turn into real wrinkles, which can be a bummer — not because wrinkles are bad, but because they may be concentrated on one side of your face if you spend most of the night sleeping on one side in particular.
If you want to keep your wrinkles symmetrical as you age, wearing a sleep mask to bed may help. Sleep masks provide a protective barrier around the eyes — the area where wrinkles typically form first.
4. May Relieve Symptoms of Dry Eye
Do you often wake up with dry, painful eyes? If so, you could have a health condition called nocturnal lagophthalmos, the medical term for sleeping with your eyes open. Blinking is essential because it keeps our eyes lubricated and healthy. But if you have nocturnal lagophthalmos, your eyelids may not close properly, leading to dry eyes and potentially making you more susceptible to infection.
Wearing an eye mask can help ease the symptoms of dry eye by keeping your eyelids closed, enhancing tear production and reducing moisture loss. A cooling eye mask can be particularly beneficial if your eyes are sore and painful, as it may help ease the discomfort.
5. May Alleviate Tension Headaches and Migraines
If you’ve ever had a migraine or a particularly bad tension headache, then you know how difficult it can be to sleep when you have a deep, throbbing pain in your forehead. The good news? Finding relief from the pain could be as simple as grabbing a cooling eye mask from the refrigerator and placing it on your forehead. Experts believe that the chilled mask can cool the blood flowing to the carotid artery in the neck, thereby reducing inflammation in the brain that contributes to headaches and migraines.
6. Helps Minimize Distractions
If your bedtime routine involves getting in your pajamas and then reaching for your smartphone, you’re not doing your sleep any favors. Using devices that emit artificial blue light disrupts your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle by suppressing melatonin, the hormone that makes you feel sleepy. Wearing an eye mask can help support your natural circadian rhythms by blocking artificial light and providing a form of sensory deprivation to minimize distractions that might keep you awake.
7. Provides a Natural Alternative to Sleep Medication
When you’re consistently not sleeping well, it can be tempting to reach for over-the-counter sleep pills as a quick fix. Unfortunately, many of these sleep aid medications come with unpleasant side effects, such as dry mouth, dizziness, blurred vision and constipation. Others may increase the risk of confusion and falls, particularly among older adults.
Eye masks provide a natural solution to your sleep woes — one that won’t cause side effects or interfere with your existing medications. As mentioned above, eye masks help you sleep by blocking light, which in turn supports your body’s natural melatonin production.
A Jack-of-All-Trades Bedtime Tool
Contrary to popular belief, eye masks are not some frivolous bedtime accessory that only pampered people use. These simple bedtime tools serve a variety of purposes, from easing migraine pain to helping restless sleepers get quality sleep. In fact, they make fantastic gifts for sleep-deprived friends! So, go ahead — surprise your friends and family with one today. Better yet, treat yourself to a high-quality eye mask and experience the benefits for yourself. Either way, it will be money well spent!