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Every night, as I reach that blissful moment where I strap on my eye mask and shut out the world, it feels like a true “Hello darkness my old friend” moment. (Although perhaps not with the angst that Simon & Garfunkel intended, but in the literal sense.)

It’s the first thing that takes me from sleep mode to sleep mode, and I’m nothing if not someone who likes to sleep.

It’s so essential to my sleep routine that I often wonder how anyone can sleep without a mask, until I remembered that I didn’t own one until about four years ago. Someone also told me once that when he used a sleep mask he woke up with panic attacks, so clearly it’s not for everyone.

However, ever since I got one, an eye mask has been a constant presence on my bedside table and in my travel bag. That said, I certainly went through many different types of sleep masks until I found the ones that worked best for me.

Why wear a mask to sleep?

According to Rebecca Robbins, associate scientist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and professor at Harvard Medical School, darkness is an important part of good sleep hygiene.

“Our eyelids are the thinnest bits of skin on our bodies,” Robbins said. “Believe it or not, even a small light from a decoder can be enough to penetrate the eyelid and disrupt our sleep.”

If you sleep in an environment where you can’t have that completely dark space and are having difficulty sleeping, she recommends trying at least an eye mask to rule out light as an issue.

A 2021 report from the Journal of Advanced Nursing assessed the sleep quality of people in intensive care, an environment of annoying beeps and lights that can prevent well-deserved rest. The researchers included nearly 800 patients from 13 different studies and found eye masks improve sleep quality. Earplugs and eye masks were even better.

A 2010 study of 14 intensive care patients published in the journal Critical Care found that the use of earplugs and eye masks resulted in more REM (rapid eye movement, which signals a deeper stage of sleep), shorter REM latency (the time it takes to reach the first stage of REM sleep), less wakefulness, and elevated melatonin levels.

While you may not spend a lot of time in ICU (hopefully), there are plenty of situations where total darkness isn’t easy to achieve. Maybe you’re a renter and don’t want to invest in blackout curtains, or your bedroom windows don’t allow for full shade coverage.

Robbins specifically mentioned how useful eye masks can be for travel, considering that most methods of travel and hotels (even nice ones) don’t focus on creating sleeping conditions. quiet and dark.

How to choose an eye mask

When it comes to sleep, comfort is key, as Robbins has pointed out for all areas of sleep hygiene. Ideally, you would be in a quiet, dark, cool room and feel as comfortable as possible. Since comfort is different for everyone, it’s important to consider how you get your best sleep when choosing an eye mask.

If you sleep on your back and have trouble turning off your brain before bed, you might be a good candidate for a weighted eye mask, which is a heavier mask that feels like a weighted blanket for your face. .

If you’re a side sleeper, however, a weighted eye mask can slip off your face and probably isn’t the best choice. If you like quiet at bedtime but don’t like earplugs, you can try a mask that also claims to reduce noise, because that’s one thing.

Whatever your preferred conditions, Robbins suggests testing the products whenever possible and mimicking your sleeping position when doing so. For example, those who spend the most time sleeping on their stomach should try an eye mask while lying on their stomach to make sure it’s comfortable and stays in place.

You may not always be able to try before you buy, so check the return policy to see if it’s possible to return or exchange one. All of the eye masks we recommend are highly rated and can do the trick if you buy the one that suits your sleeping style.