Benefits of Eye Masks for Sleep

Benefits of Eye Masks for Sleep
"Wet Dreams" by Thorsten is licensed under CC BY 4.0

Are you one of the millions of people who has trouble falling asleep or wakes up too soon? If so, light pollution may be to blame. Fortunately, this problem can be solved easily with the use of an eye mask for sleep.

How Light Ruins Your Sleep

According to a recent gallup poll, it was discovered that around 40 percent of Americans get less than the recommended eight hours of sleep each night. The poll revealed that, on average, Americans only slept for 6.8 hours. What’s more, this figure has decreased significantly since 1942, when it stood at 7.9 hours per night. Researchers aren’t yet certain why, but they believe that it may be due to the increased use of electronics and other sources of artificial light, and that we’re being exposed to them later into the night.

Other studies have investigated the connection between sleep duration, sleep quality and nighttime exposure to light. As it turns out, this could be a major reason why so many people have trouble falling and staying asleep. At night, the brain secretes a hormone called melatonin, which tells your body when it’s time for bed.

However, that’s only under normal circumstances. The studies found that when you add cool-spectrum (“white light”) light to the mix, it disturbs the brain’s ability to produce and secrete melatonin decreases sharpy, which disturbs the sleep cycle. People with impaired melatonin not only went to bed later but also woke up sooner and felt less rested.

That’s not the only problem, though. The body repairs itself during deep sleep. It secretes growth hormones to heal injuries and regenerate tissues, slows the breakdown of muscle, increases white blood cell production and supports proper nutrient utilization. People with chronic sleep issues are more likely develop weight problems, weaker immune systems, hypertension, diabetes, cancer and heart disease.

That’s to say nothing of the impact of sleep on your psychological health. Deep, restorative sleep is necessary for the proper regulation of mood-supporting neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine. When sleep is disturbed, levels of these neurotransmitters are suppressed. Many studies have found strong links between low serotonin or dopamine and depression, mood swings, anxiety and other psychological disorders, including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

What You Can Do About It

This research indicates that televisions, computer screens, street lights and even the charge light on your phone could be the whole reason you don’t sleep well. Fortunately, short of avoiding all sources of light during and immediately before bed, your best bet is to use an eye mask.

How They Help

Eye masks, which are often called sleeping masks, are specially designed accessories that are used to shield your eyes from light during sleep. There are a variety of fabrics, styles and designs to choose from. However, while an eye mask might seem straightforward, their effectiveness can differ greatly from one product to the next. It’s important to choose the one that works best for you.

Choosing an Eye Mask

Don’t simply buy the first cheap eye mask you find. Stop and consider the features of the product. The fabric should be thick enough that it’s able to completely block light, but also breathable. People with sensitive skin should be especially careful as synthetic fabrics may cause skin irritation or itching. If this is the case for you, it’s recommended to choose one made from a natural, breathable material like silk or cotton.

Next, consider how the mask is used. Does it slip over your head or behind your ears? Is the strap wide and soft, or is it a thin elastic band that will cut into your skin? You’ll also need to make sure your eye mask fastens securely to your face and stays there all night, but isn’t so tight that it’s uncomfortable. Also pay attention to the price. Some eye masks sell for tens of dollars, but you might not have to spend that much to get a high-quality product that suits your needs.

The cut of the mask you choose is as essential as the thickness of its fabric for blocking light. You want one that provides coverage from the edges of your nose to the hair line on your temples, and from the tops of your eyebrows to the tops of your cheek bones.

Finally, with so many eye mask designs to choose from, there’s a huge potential for personalization. You can find eye masks in virtually any color, pattern or theme you please. However, it’s also important to use caution here. Eye masks with embroidery, frills or other attached decorations have the potential to be a nuisance if they can tickle you or rub against your eyes.

Because ambient noise can also contribute to sleep disturbances, eye masks exist that come with ear muffs attached. If you live in the city, an apartment building or near a busy street where noise is as big an issue as light pollution, selecting this style can provide additional sleep benefits.

Although it’s not as important as most other features, you may also wish to select an eye mask that is washable. When the mask spends hours in direct contact with your face each night, it tends to pick up oil and dead skin. Prolonged use of a dirty eye mask could promote skin irritation and the formation of pimples. Furthermore, as dead skin and oil accumulate in the mask, they prevent air from flowing through it properly, causing sweating and discomfort.

Conclusion

A good night’s sleep plays a critical role in the quality of your everyday life, but even small amounts of light pollution can ruin that. For this reason, it’s strongly recommended to invest in a quality eye mask. After just a few nights, you’re sure to notice a significant improvement in your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep longer.

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