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Sleep Masks: Science-Backed, or Money-Wasters?

Should you wear a sleep mask even if you DON”T have problems falling asleep? Or is it a waste of time and comfort?

Lots of studies have shown the benefit for ICU patients, whiich makes sense. But now researchers tested them on young people sleeping in their own homes, measuring both the direct effect of masks on sleep quality, and the impact on memory and alertness the next day.

Welcome back to 30 Studies to Change Your Life: Sleep Week. Last time we covered how any light in the room can mess with your sleep and activate your sympathetic nervous system. But sometimes your room can be tough to fully control. Maybe your partner has a different sleep schedule, or is afraid of the dark. A sleep mask is like turning off the lights in your brain's bedroom

This study had people go through periods wearing either a sleep mask, no mask, or mask with eye holes cut out to duplicate the feel on the face but still let in light. They measured sleep quality with an at-home EEG, and gave morning questionnaires and cognitive tests.

Turns out, wearing the real sleep mask didn’t impact their total time asleep, and had no effect on their self-reported alertness. Buuut that’s like asking your drunk friend Steve if HE thinks he’s ok to drive.

Eeeyyyyeeeeeahh jggust let me finish my BORG

Sure enough, the objective measures told a different story.

Wearing the sleep mask lead to better performance on memory and attention tests the next day, and the memory performance was positively correlated with the amount of Deep Sleep, which could indicate increased slow brain wave activity during that time.

Final verdict: if your room is not pitch black, get a nice sleep mask, even if you don’t THINK you need it. I’ve tested a ton of them so let me know if you want recommendations.

My Sleep Masks
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The Drowsy

Maximum Comfort!

For nights when i’m tired enough to fall asleep without listening to anything.

  • 100% Mulberry Silk
  • Wrap-around velcro design (no elastic)
  • Blocks 98% of light, perfect for all but the brightest of rooms–and still works pretty well in them (it won’t take an airport to pitch-black, but it will make it easily dark enough to fall asleep).
  • Feels like your face is getting a hug

Who is this for?

  • If elastic bands irritate you / give headahces
  • If you have sensitive skin
  • If you want the best blend of light blocking and comfort
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The WAOAW

Maximum darkness!

For times when i need maximum light-blocking. I’ve used this to fall asleep in a super bright airport on multiple occasions.

  • Can’t tell the difference between room lights on or off.
  • Doesn’t put pressure on the eyes or eyelashes
  • Thick, full-wrap-around elastic band that doesn’t cause tension (normal thin elastic bands give me headaches)

Who is this for?

  • If you often need to sleep in medium to high lighting rooms.
  • If your eyes are sensitive to pressure
  • If you have eyelash extensions
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The Musicozy

I wear this >50% of nights.

If you like falling asleep listening to music, audiobooks, or podcasts, this guy will become your best friend!

  • Built-in headphones
  • wrap-around design
  • blocks out most light (takes rooms from “dark-ish” to “optimal darkness for sleep health”)
  • Very compact for travel (I sometimes put it in my pocket)

Who is this for?

  • If you like falling asleep listening to something
  • If your normal bedroom is dark but not pitch black, and you want the health benefits of the latter.
  • If you travel on cars, buses, and airplanes and want to fall asleep listening to something