The Science of Sleep Masks and Sleep Mask Benefits
If you're having trouble falling sound asleep at night, you're not alone. A vast majority of the general population surprisingly 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, and 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 just be a bandaid solution that is covering up the real issues behind your difficulty in sleeping. These sleeping aids can also lead to different side effects, such as changes in appetite, problems with your balance, dizziness, drowsiness during the day, 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, wherever and whenever you need to fall asleep, and get more ideas on how to sleep soundly at night.
Scientific Evidence Behind Eye Mask Benefits
So, why are so many scientists enthusiastically endorsing making good use of a sleep mask when you're having trouble getting a good night's rest?
Mainly because the evidence for the benefits of a sleep mask -- and the health risks of light pollution -- have been proven by countless scientific studies. The eye 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 to see some studies which will 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 help suppress the production of melatonin, 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, and 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, making it vital to wear a mask to keep out any stray rays from creeping in.
Take note that blue light exposure from too much screen time (on devices such as your computer, tablet or phone) 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 unnecessary exposure to different light sources before bedtime really does have an effect on your body.
For starters, you’re more susceptible to insomnia and other sleep disorders, which 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 about leaving your gadgets on at night as you slumber.
The Proven Benefits Of Eye Masks
According to a studywritten up in the National Sleep Foundation, sleepers who went to bed with eye masks experienced both physical and psychological benefits. Sleep masks help you experience a more restful slumber, which can help you concentrate and 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. This means you have a consistent sleep-wake cycle, and 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 eye masks and those who did not. Melatonin and cortisol are both key biological markers of our circadian rhythm, with melatonin being an important circadian regulatory hormone, and cortisol playing 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 the masks.
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, and 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 - thus another point in favor of wearing an eye mask to bed.
Other Benefits of Using a Sleep Mask
We've already shared a few different 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 great reasons to consider eye masks.
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.
Perfect accessory to bring on road trips or travel. For the weary traveller who has to go to multiple destinations, or even if you're just visiting friends and family elsewhere, sleep masks can be a lifesaver when it's time to get some shut-eye. They're portable, don't require a lot of maintenance, and take 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 lasting harmful effects on your body, as it contains zero chemicals and is only made for external use.
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