This science-backed sleeping accessory may just be the thing you need to help you get your Zzzs.
There are two types of humans: those who take naps with their sleep masks on, and those who do without it. To the latter – who may have an innate talent of falling asleep easily – these small gartered fabrics may seem cumbersome. But to the former, sleep masks hold the key to their much-needed slumbers and could not proceed without it.
No, they're not just stylish accessories
Audrey Hepburn used it for a reason. When your eyes gradually droop as you head to Sleep Stage 1, little bits of light still peek through the seams. Slowly, your eyelids become heavy, but one stunning glare and you're back to square one, awake. Your chance to sleep is gone. The melatonin, which triggers your body's desire to nap, suddenly recedes. Darkness, after all, is what beckons it. This is the reason why you need an efficient cover around the eyes – soft, thin but has enough coverage to block out the unwelcome brightness.
Sure, there are many ways to block out the light, you say. You can turn them off at night. You can even shut the blinds and close the curtains. Most of the time, however, is that it's not 100% darkness. A little ray of light from the moon, a gradient of shadows, or a beam from your neighbour's car is enough to wake you up. In the UK, it has been reported that a fifth of the adults are being disturbed by light before or as they sleep, as revealed by the 2015 Great British Sleep Survey. If you’re one of them, maybe it’s now time to grab a sleep mask.
Okay, so it blocks out the light. But what else can it do?
Sleep masks reduce the time you take to fall asleep. Lost count of sheep? Dr Alanna Hare of London's Royal Brompton Hospital Centre for Sleep disclosed that wearing sleep masks cut down your awake time in bed, helping you sleep faster. Since complete darkness boosts your body's melatonin level, you snooze much quicker, skipping the struggles of tossing and turning in the bed. How about that for a benefit?
Sleep masks increase the quality of your sleep. You go through the entire sleep cycle many times at night. At the end of the cycle, you have shallow sleep, which may prompt you to wake up as a response to any disturbance, such as light or sound. But since sleep masks block out light, your melatonin levels stay strong and you can move on to your next sleep cycle without a distraction.
Sleep masks allow you to take naps wherever you are. You don't always have your thick room curtains with you, but you can always bring a sleep mask. Long car rides, 10-hour flights, a day's bus tour – overcome the feelings of fatigue by taking a nap along the way. And since it’s small and easily folded, you can safely tuck it inside your bag whenever you travel.
Sleep mask helps you overcome jetlag. Travelling across continents? You will need a sleep mask. At home, adjust your body's time zone according to your destination by sleeping in their time. This may mean going to bed earlier than the usual, even as sunlight brims through your window. Wearing a sleep mask helps you take your snoozes in the right hours, allowing you to adjust with convenience. During the flight, sleep through the long hours minus the distraction of your seatmate's blinding screen as they watch a movie. Pair it with headphones and ambient music, and you're good to go!
Sleep masks help you recover your health. In a study held in the Qom University of Medical Sciences, Iran, 60 cardiac patients were chosen to receive routine care. Half of them were given an eye mask for three nights. As revealed by the researchers, those who wore eye masks showed improvement in quality of sleep. Thus, nurses are advised to use sleep masks in combination with current treatments to help improve the patient's sleep quality.
Sleep masks may be small, but they pack a lot of benefits that will surely make life, as a whole, better.