Turning Your Lights Down Low: Do Sleep Masks Work?

man in sleep mask

It is no surprise that half of the people across the United States suffer from sleep problems. If you are one of them, then chances are you either can?t sleep all night long or have an arduous time falling asleep in the first place. Some may even suffer from insomnia or chronic sleeplessness, which makes it hard to fall?asleep (and stay asleep) at night. Several factors affect your ability to fall asleep, one of which is too much light. In today’s world of business, many?of us work the graveyard shift i.e. from midnight to early morning. Humans are not nocturnal breeds, and if you work at night, then you have to deal squarely with daytime sleeping. Though we consider stress as the most significant cause of sleeplessness, the simple presence of light entering your bedroom can also keep you awake. At my old home, we had pretty thin curtains at one point when I was on a shift system, so I can definitely confirm that light (especially natural light) can be quite a nuisance when one is trying to sleep!

That said, there are many different tools you can employ to help you fall asleep or improve the quality of your sleep. One of them is the use of sleep masks. Sleep masks are composed of lightweight fabric designed to fit snugly around your head and cover your eyes as you sleep. They create periods of darkness enabling you to sleep well. Research done by the National Institute of Sleep on the use of sleep masks revealed that ear plugs and sleep masks significantly reduce the time you take to fall asleep. Sleep masks have also been found to help increase Rapid Eye Movement (which is the truly restorative phase of sleep). Additionally, studies done on the use of sleep masks confirmed that they?help increase the levels of melatonin in the blood which eliminates frequent waking up. On a sidenote, insomnia is a prevalent issue in many populations, affecting more women than men. It could be postulated therefore that females will secure potentially?greater benefit from the use of eye masks. If you’re interested, I would encourage you to take a gander at my?top 3 recommendations for sleep masks.

How Do Sleep Masks Work?

astronaut in sleep mask

Talk about sleeping in any position!

The use of sleep masks is the simplest solution to fighting insomnia. Sleep masks work by blocking out light and in some instances pestering sounds from outside (when used in conjunction with ear plugs). They trick your body and condition it to think it?s night time i.e. time to sleep. If you didn?t know, the two major contributing factors that regulate your sleep and wake cycles are the amount of light and noise around you. So, very few of us will sleep for full 8 hours when in a brightly lit and noisy room. I do have a friend who is a special anomaly though?he can pretty much fall asleep anywhere in any position. How I envy him!

Though it sounds weird to have a mask on your face?whenever you want to sleep, it is a guaranteed method of fighting sleeping problems. Manufacturers have come up with a magnificent selection of sleep masks. However, before buying one, there are three critical factors to consider. First, ensure the mask is opaque, i.e. it should block light from all sources. Secondly, the fabric type should facilitate your comfort. Sleep masks made of soft fabric are lightweight and non-abrasive while being worn on your face. The best materials are silk and satin. Those made of blended polyester may not provide the maximum comfort you need. Finally, the head strap needs to be fully adjustable and comfortable. Those that can be tied are good compared to those that use elastic bands (since the latter will eventually lose its shape and cause slippage on the face).

Types of Sleep Masks

512px-handmade_sleepmasks_eyemasks_paris_franceDifferent types of sleep masks work differently and can benefit you in many ways. Selection usually depends on one?s personal taste, style, level of comfort and budget. The most common types of sleep masks are constructed with or include?fleece, nylon, gel and foam. Fleece sleep masks are soft and very comfortable to wear. They are very efficient in comforting and soothing you to sleep. It is made of a soft, warm and fuzzy material that contours your face well. Fleece masks block out all the light and create complete darkness regardless of the time of the day.

Nylon masks are the most affordable pieces you can get around. Despite their affordability, they are actually the most efficient in blocking out light from outside. If you live in a street with busy lights and noises, then nylon masks may be the best pick for you. Gel masks, besides blocking unwanted light, also provide medical benefits by softening your skin or providing other therapeutic effects. A gel mask is excellent?for?providing relief to sinus pressure, headaches, eye strain, and migraines. Foam Masks?have great?light blocking abilities, ?and beat all others when it comes to molding your face and eyes as you sleep.

Why Sleep Masks Make Sense

sleep mask during flightSleep masks are affordable and efficient in soothing you to sleep. It is important to remember that you need sufficient sleep for your body to function well. They are not only beneficial to those who can?t sleep but also to regular long distance travelers who frequently venture into varying time zones. Long distance flights will sometimes try to mitigate the effect of traversing time zones on passengers by turning out the lights etc, but it is still a good idea to have a sleep mask for total darkness.

If you live in a busy city with street lights in your bedroom, then you may need to consider a sleep mask. Again, if you work at night and sleep during the day, then sleep masks would mean a lot to you. Moreover, sleep masks are very easy to use as compared to other sleep interventions. With a few trials, you can get used to it. Give it a try and see the benefits.

Pros of sleep masks
  • They are comfortable and don?t pose any nuisance to your sleep.
  • They are affordable.
  • They may offer additional benefits such as softening your skin, increasing melatonin levels and increasing REM sleep.
  • They are great at blocking ambient light, making them ideal for those who have to sleep in the day.
Cons of sleep masks

It may sound odd to you during your first time having a mask around your face. Many first-timers have indicated that it creates a very strange sensation! Initially, some may not even fall asleep at all.

interesting eye masksAll in all, sleep masks do indeed work, and they’ll be sure to help improve the rapid onset?and?comfort of your slumber. Since I’m a night owl, my wife?bought one to help block out the?light from my?lamp, and I can tell you it’s worked wonders (especially in the ‘grumpy’ department–just kidding). You can use them pretty effectively as adjunctive treatment as well, such as with CPAP machines to help improve the sleep environment. Either which way, be sure to choose one that suits your tastes (and don’t be ashamed if you like kooky ones)!

Are you thinking of using a sleep mask to help with any issues you may be having falling asleep? If you’ve tried them before, what was your experience like? I would love if you could share in the comments area below!

Sleep well until next time.



  1. Skylet

    I totally support sleep masks! I used to work the graveyard shift actually. 10 PM to 6AM. People say as long as you sleep in the day, it would be the same outcome. Its so far from true. Theres a quality in the air in the daytime, that makes it almost impossible to sleep! I think sleep masks are a great way to get some much needed rest.

    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Thanks for your comment Skylet. I concur, sleeping in the day is VERY hard to do. I really wish I had considered a sleep mask back when I worked the graveyard shift (12am – 8:30am). The light–the noise, and worse I was doing a part-time degree…I was slowly running myself into the ground! Anything that can promote rest under those circumstances, I’m all for it. Sleep well!

  2. Ben

    Funny, I got back yesterday morning from overseas, and I was on a twelve-hour non-stop flight. Sure, they turned off the lights, but really, people could turn on their own personal lights that are provided above them for reading in the dark, not to mention the small television screens at every seat. I should have bought a mask.

    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Hey Ben…I can relate. I once had a 19-hr flight to India via Emirates, and while they do their best to be accommodating, the ambient light kept bothering me. These’s a cheap mask they include in their packs but it was pretty thin and a little abrasive on my face so I took it off after a bit. Best to have your own quality sleep mask (and ear plugs) in my book especially when journeying for long distances.

  3. Courtney

    I can’t believe I have never heard of sleep mask. and i did not consider the impact of light;I live in the tropics and we have no curtains as we sleep on the third floor of the house; we two large french doors, the light is a factor on moonlight nights, the only noise that does matter to us is when there are rough seas, we can hear the waves lashing against the shore. I am not a good sleeper but my wife does well. perhaps we should look at sleep masks in light of the fact that there is a lot of light even at nights. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Hi Courtney, glad you found this informative. If you have problems sleeping due to light and noise, I’d recommend going for the sleep mask with a great pair of ear plugs (many of these are sold together these days). I live in the Caribbean as well so while on vacation on the coast I’m well aware of how noisy the sea can get outside one’s window. Give it a shot–sleep masks are one of the lowest cost sleep aids you can find!

  4. Nicole

    Do you think using a sleep mask is better than just investing in black-out curtains? I’ve never been able to find a sleep mask that I’ve found completely comfortable – usually I end up feeling claustrophobic and/or my face starts sweating, so usually I don’t like wearing sleep masks. Do you have any recommendations for sleep masks?

    1. Joshua (Post author)

      Thanks for reading Nicole. Sleep masks, as simple as they are, come in such a wide variety that I’m positive there’s one out there for you. If your face begins sweating under the mask, it may mean that the material you are using isn’t breathable–such as velvet or wool (some have wool linings and those are known to cause sweating). Light breathable material like simple cotton might be a good bet. I plan to do a review of some choice masks in about 2 weeks’ time.

      That said, I’m a big fan of promoting sleep environments so I’d say blackout curtains would also be a good, albeit a potentially more expensive, buy. Just make sure you measure appropriately so you don’t get light seeping in or around the curtains. I actually thought about getting those when I was on the night shift. Whatever decision you make, I hope that you have your best sleep ever! Take care.


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