When it comes to sleep, you can’t have one without the other - both quality and quantity matter. Yet, millions of American adults struggle each night to get the seven to nine hours of sleep recommended by the National Sleep Foundation. In fact, according to one CDC study, more than a third of American adults are not getting enough sleep on a regular basis.
This statistic is undoubtedly an alarming one, and could be due to a variety of different factors. Stress in our daily lives, insomnia, overstimulation due to the use of technology late at night… the list goes on.
One thing is for sure, though. Getting a bad night’s sleep (i.e., less than seven hours per night) is linked to a whole bunch of chronic conditions that make for some pretty scary reading: heart disease, stroke, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and mental illnesses.
Naturally, this leads us to an incredibly important question. How can I improve the quality and quantity of my sleep, to make sure my mind and body are functioning in the best way that they can?
Well, today, we’re here to talk about one of the easiest, simplest, and most cost-effective ways to upgrade your sleep: using a sleep mask (also known as an eye mask).
Before we delve into the many benefits of using a sleep mask at night, let’s explore the basic premise of these masks. Eye masks come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials, but all have the same goal: to fully cover both of your eyes and block any light from reaching them as you snooze.
A sleep mask can be beneficial to anybody, but may be particularly useful for you if:
- you suffer from insomnia.
- you are a light sleeper and wake easily.
- you work night shifts, so tend to sleep during the daytime.
- you have flimsy curtains or blinds that let in a lot of light.
- you sleep with tech near your bed (such as an alarm clock on your bedside table) that emits a glow.
- you travel often and find it hard to sleep in unfamiliar environments.
Let’s take a look at the 12 Reasons Why you Need a Sleep Mask for Better Sleep:
- They Stop Light Coming in and Disrupting your Circadian Rhythm
Each and every one of us has what is called a circadian rhythm. This is basically our internal “body clock” that regulates our sleeping patterns. Circadian rhythms depend wholly on light. Even very small streams of light – be it natural or artificial - that creep into our room while we’re asleep can signal to our body that it’s daytime and therefore time to wake up.
Light can actually stop the body’s natural production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates our sleep/wake cycle. That’s why the best, least disturbed nights’ sleep take place in an environment of complete darkness. Enter your new sleep mask.
- They Can Increase your REM Sleep
REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep is a unique and extremely important phase of a human’s sleep cycle (as well as the sleep cycle of other mammals and birds – fun fact!). It is essentially the deepest type of sleep you can experience.
REM sleep is known to be restorative for the brain and body, and beneficial for memory and learning. It is characterized by more intense brain activity, which causes vivid dreams and random rapid movement of the eyes.
Most people experience multiple short periods of REM sleep each night (commonly between three and five). Each period gradually gets longer, starting at approximately 10 minutes and increasing to approximately one hour.
Studies have shown that the total darkness simulated by wearing a sleep mask can a) help people reach the REM sleep phase faster, and b) increase the length of REM sleep periods, thus bringing about even more of those restorative benefits.
- They Can be Used as Part of a Calming Bedtime Routine
Take this as a general rule: any activity that you carry out on a constant and regular basis, at a specific time of day each day, helps train your brain and body to start thinking in a certain way.
Therefore, any activity that you do consistently every night before bed will eventually start to carry associations and send signals to your brain, to start calming down and get ready for sleep.
Putting on a sleep mask is no exception. Incorporating this quick and easy step into your bedtime routine can help you fall asleep faster, as your body already starts to prepare for rest from the moment you pull it over your eyes. One word: Genius!
- They are Cheap and Easy
Sleep masks are an incredibly economical and readily available way to create a peaceful environment of total darkness while you snooze. This is especially true when you compare them to alternatives such as having to install pricey blackout curtains or blinds in your bedroom. No, thank you. We don’t have time for that!
- They are Portable
Eye masks can be taken on the go with you, wherever you go – simply throw one in your purse and you’re all set! This makes them a super versatile solution for getting a good night’s sleep, especially on long airplane journeys or if you are travelling. You never know what the light situation is going to be like in your Airbnb or hotel room!
- They Eliminate Visual Distractions
One of the major advantages to using a sleep mask at night is that, if you happen to wake up at any point, you’re much less likely to look around your room and find a distraction. With total darkness and a lack of visual stimulation, you can simply fall straight back to sleep.
This goes out to all those who can’t resist picking up their phone to “check the time” when they wake up in the middle of the night… we all know how that one ends! Before you know it, you’ve been scrolling through your next-door neighbor’s dog’s Instagram for 45 minutes and it’s almost time to wake up for work. Eliminate that temptation and keep your sleep mask firmly on!
- They Can Protect your Skin
Did you know that there are even beauty benefits to using an eye mask!? Wearing a sleep mask in bed can help to preserve and protect the extra delicate skin around your eye area as you slumber.
Furthermore, on the basis of helping you to get a better night’s rest, a sleep mask can also help stave off facial wrinkles and fine lines associated with sleep deprivation.
- They Can Help to Minimize Dry and Itchy Eyes
When used correctly, sleep masks fully cover and therefore protect our eyes from all types of dust, dry air, and other potential irritants or allergens that could affect us while we sleep. Wake up ready and raring to go, without that horrible itchy feeling.
- They are a Safer, More Natural Alternative to Medication
Medication, sleeping pills and sleep supplements, such as melatonin, are all too common nowadays. Of course, these should always be used according to your doctor’s advice. However, the potential side effects of these kinds of pills, along with the fact that many are habit-forming (meaning they can lead to dependency and an inability to sleep unaided) should not go unacknowledged.
Introducing an eye mask to your sleep toolbox is a great natural way of getting some high-quality shuteye, without any of the aforementioned risks.
- There’s a Sleep Mask for Everyone
The sheer variety of sleep mask shapes, sizes, and materials available on the market means that there is a, without a doubt, a mask out there to please everyone.
From indulgent silk to lightweight cotton, to ultra-soft and sustainable viscose from bamboo, you can happily pick your material of choice. Then there are the shapes – those that are cupped around the eyes, those with memory foam padding, those with adjustable or extra-wide bands for added noise reduction… the possibilities are endless!
- They Can Help to Relieve Headaches
If you’ve ever suffered from a migraine, you will know how incredibly painful, unpleasant, and debilitating these headaches can be. You may have found yourself wanting nothing more than to shut yourself in a dark room with a cool, wet towel on your forehead until the throbbing sensation went away.
Enter: your multi-purpose sleep mask - the perfect way to block out as much light as possible (and maybe even get some shut-eye) while you wait for the pain to reside. What a relief.
- They’ve got CRYSTALS in them!
Okay, okay, we’ll admit it. Not all sleep masks harness the natural healing power of amethyst, rose quartz and clear quartz crystals… but all the best ones do.
The Crystal Powered Sleep Mask from Sunday Citizen features a lightweight filling made with natural gemstones that radiate soothing energy. Made from eco-friendly, antibacterial, and hypoallergenic viscose from bamboo, this sleep mask gives out all the good vibrations. So you can sleep deeply and peacefully, all night long.