There’s more than one reason to wear an eye mask for sleeping. Read this post to discover how a sleep mask benefits your health. Plus, tips for better zzzs.
If you're having trouble falling sound asleep at night, you're not alone. Surprisingly, most of the general population has problems getting a good night's rest in one way or another. One theory that explains it is that we humans have evolved to remain alert.
Our ancestors way back in the caveman days often had to be on guard against predators and enemies. Those genes have been passed down to us. This has led to us needing the perfect conditions to fall asleep soundly. And it's a nightly struggle that sometimes seems an insurmountable challenge.
If you need help falling asleep, it’s far too easy to rely on snake oil remedies or harmful pharmaceutical sleeping pills to get the job done.
While natural sleep aids, like melatonin and even chamomile tea, are safer options, sometimes they’re not enough. Sleep aids such as pills, whether natural or not, can be a band-aid solution that covers up the real issues behind your difficulty in sleeping.
These sleeping aids can also lead to different side effects. These include changes in appetite, problems with balance, dizziness, daytime drowsiness, unusual dreams, weakness or fatigue, and many more.
There is, however, a cost-effective solution that doesn’t come with any side effects: using a sleep mask.
Read on to learn more about proven sleeping mask benefits and how to choose one that’s right for you. Plus, discover how light impacts your sleep and more.
Scientific Evidence Behind Eye Mask Benefits
So, why are so many scientists endorsing makinga sleep mask when you're having trouble getting a good night's rest?
Mainly because the evidence for sleep mask benefits — and the health risks of light pollution — have been proven by countless scientific studies. The sleep mask benefits are also, when compared to the use of sleeping pills and aids, great in helping you get better sleep without any pesky side effects. (Except maybe feeling super refreshed the next day!).
Read on for some studies that back up the benefits of wearing a sleep mask regularly.
How Intrusive Light Impacts Your Sleep Cycle
Excessive, intrusive light at night has been scientifically proven to interrupt your body’s natural levels of hormone production. Light can suppress the production of melatonin. It’s an important hormone that has a direct correlation to your body's all-important circadian rhythm. It also impacts your cell regrowth rate. And even messes with the patterns of your brain waves.
Light exposure towards the wee hours of the evening can also push back your circadian rhythm, which won't help if you already have pre-existing sleep disorders like insomnia.
This is because light pollution, whether from your electronics or other external sources, throws off your body’s circadian rhythm. The circadian rhythm refers in part to your internal body clock, which follows a 24-hour cycle and plays a huge role in your body's health and overall performance.
A good circadian rhythm is essential in carrying out your body's various functions properly. It should be taken into consideration as you hit your pillows and mattress at night. Exposure to light is one of the primary disruptors of a restful sleep. This makes it vital to wear a sleep mask to keep out any stray rays from creeping in.
Take note that blue light exposure from too much screen time on devices can also cause other problems aside from sleep-related ones. It can lead to eye strain, blurry vision, dry eyes, and more. So just a side note: even the smallest of lights can impact your sleep. Make sure to turn off all unnecessary devices well before you tuck yourself in for the night.
What Are the Health Risks of Light at Night?
Light, causing health risks? This may sound new to you. But it's been scientifically proven that exposure to different light sources before bedtime has an effect on your body.
For starters, you’re more susceptible to insomnia and other sleep disorders. This in itself is a good reason to turn off that television before you even begin to settle down in bed to sleep. However, science also shows far more sinister consequences.
According to a Harvard study, these effects include:
Increased risk of obesity and diabetes
Potential development of breast or prostate cancer
All of this, only from indoor and outdoor light pollution.
So it’s no exaggeration to say that wearing a sleep mask could quite literally save your life. You'll need to think twice about the light in your surroundings, and leaving your gadgets on at night as you slumber.
The Proven Benefits Of Eye Masks
According to a study published in Oxford Academic, sleepers who went to bed with eye masks experienced improved alertness and memory.(1)Sleep masks help you experience a more restful slumber. This, in turn, helps you focus during the day, boost your energy and mood, improve your short-term memory, and more.
People who used sleep masks were also far less prone to disruptions in their sleep patterns than those who slept without masks. One benefit is a consistent sleep-wake cycle. Another is you’ll experience a deep sleep that will help lower your metabolism and help you wake up refreshed the next day.
To learn more about sleeping masks, what to look for in a good mask, and how to determine which product can help the most for your specific sleep challenges, read our article on the best sleep mask.
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Studies have revealed that there was a drastic difference between the levels of cortisol and melatonin between those who slept with sleep masks and those who did not. Melatonin and cortisol are both key biological markers of our circadian rhythm.
Melatonin is an important circadian regulatory hormone. Meanwhile, cortisol plays a key role in helping our bodies cope with stress and also helping to regulate our metabolism.
Those without sleep masks had significantly lower levels of these two crucial hormones. As a result, they were more likely to be woken up, and also experienced worse sleep quality than those who wore a mask.
The study also confirmed that those who wore sleep masks experienced an increase in the length of their REM cycle. REM stands for rapid eye movement, and when you experience REM sleep, your brain activity picks up.
Areas of your brain that are responsible for learning and retaining your memories get stimulated. REM sleep is also when you have the most intense dreams. The goal is to have consistent REM sleep — another point in favor of wearing a sleep mask to bed.
More Eye Mask for Sleeping Benefits
We've already shared a few reasons why using a sleep mask is good for you and your slumber - all based on sound scientific evidence. But in case those still aren't enough to convince you to give them a try, here are a few more sleep mask benefits to consider.
Can help prevent dry eyes. With the sleep mask's eye cups providing a seal of sorts around the eyes, it prevents moisture from escaping and keeps dust from settling on your lids while you sleep.
Sleep masks provide you with complete blackout at night. Blackout curtains might be too expensive, particularly if you have a lot of windows in your bedroom. And sometimes even expensive curtains still don't work, as light can still seep in around the edges.
A sleep mask is ideal for travel. For the weary traveler who has to go to multiple destinations, a sleep mask can be a lifesaver when it's time to get some shut-eye. It's portable, doesn't require a lot of maintenance, and takes up little space in your luggage.
No harmful side effects. Compared to sleeping aids or over-the-counter pills, sleep masks don't have any harmful effects on your body. It contains zero chemicals and is made for external use.