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Ever Notice How TV Show Characters Always Wear Sleep Masks to Bed?
Ah, sleep. Remember the last time you got a good night’s rest? It’s such a magical feeling, as if singing cartoon birds are going to swoop in through your bedroom window to help dress you.
Or can you even remember the last time you felt rested?
Sleep is so important to our mental and physical well-being. It recharges us, makes us feel more alert, and touts a list of benefits for our overall well-being. Yet, many of us aren’t getting enough of it.
The CDC has declared our lack of sleep a “public health problem” citing that 1 in 3 adults get less than the recommended 7 hours of sleep per night.
Enter one of my faves, the sleep mask. No, they’re not just for fancy rich ladies in 80’s movies (kids, ask your parents). These little babies can mean the difference between some quality rest and fending off all those suggestive, “Rough night?” comments from coworkers.
I first discovered this glorious invention after my first child was born. Following the famous “sleep when your baby sleeps” parenting survival tip, I reached for my eye mask so I could try to catch up on rest.
Thus, a friendship was born, and I still use my eye mask to this very day. I notice I fall to sleep faster, sleep longer and wake less frequently at night. Especially since baby number two has come along, and the monitor is back at my bedside.
The Benefits of Deep Sleep
According to The Better Sleep Council, “Women are more in tune to sleep needs, yet suffer more from lack of sleep than men.”
As busy moms, wives, and working women, I don’t have to tell you that the better sleep you get, the better you feel. However, many of us aren’t getting enough sleep, or enough good sleep.
That’s right. Almost half of us are in an “It’s Complicated” relationship with sleep.
When you don’t sleep well, you feel all the blahs, your brain seems like it’s slogging through mud, and you get that fun moment when you look in the mirror in the morning and see the ravages of last night written all over our face. “Oh, I didn’t realize we were hanging out today, Dark Circles and Puffy Bags!”
Okay, but why is sleep so important?
- Mental benefits - Good sleep promotes a better ability to process memories and information, and has been linked to improvements with issues like anxiety and depression. It also improves our stress management, as evidenced by how moody we can get when we’re tired.
- Immune system support - It’s obviously important to get lots of rest when you’re battling an illness, but it can also help prevent us from getting sick. One study monitored the sleeping patterns of participants after being exposed to the cold virus and found that those who slept less than 6 hours per night were 4 times more likely to become infected.
- Muscle repair - While you’re off being the Mayor of Sleepytown, your pituitary gland releases a growth hormone that activates tissue growth and muscle repair. If you’re recovering from an injury, or that introductory boot camp class, your body needs sleep to rebuild.
- Skin Health - Sleep is, as mentioned, one of the best ways to ward off dark eye circles, puffiness and tired, sagging skin. We’ve all seen our faces after a sleepless night (or a few). After all, there’s a reason it’s called beauty sleep.
Sleep Deprivation has also been linked to other health concerns such as obesity, risk of stroke, and increased levels of anxiety and depression.
Why You Should Get Yourself a Sleep Mask
They Can Improve Sleep
Eye masks, or sleep masks, are an effective way to upgrade your quality of sleep. They cover your eyes to block out any surrounding light. When your brain senses total darkness, it increases the production of melatonin, the hormone responsible for sleep.
If you think about it, as people, we used to adhere to nature’s clock. When it got dark, we’d put down our plows and settle in for the night. Now, we’re staying up later and later, working, binge watching and staring at bright screens, and our natural clocks are getting all busted up.
Not to mention disruptions to our sleep, like light and noise, that are beyond our control. If you sleep in a room where bright sunlight streams in in the morning, or where you cannot be in total darkness at night, a sleep mask can really improve your zzzzzzzz’s.
A 2009 Chinese study observed the sleep of 14 subjects over a 4 night period in an ICU environment with lots of sleep-interrupting light and noise. The subjects were then asked to don sleep masks and earplugs. At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that participants who wore eye masks and earplugs experienced more REM time, less waking, and higher melatonin levels.
And that’s in an ICU! Imagine what a mask could do for you in your own bed!
They Make Great Travel Companions
Red eye flights, long car rides and unfamiliar beds can wage war on our sleep schedules. Including an eye mask in your travel bag or carry on can help you avoid literal red eyes post flight. Plus, they’re a nice little luxury item to add some comfort to the unfamiliar experience of sleeping sitting up while traveling.
They also come in handy if you’re traveling across time zones to regulate your sleep schedule both when you arrive at your destination and when you return home.
My Tips for Choosing the Right Sleep Mask
Go For Comfort
Make sure your mask is made out of a soft, breathable (and washable!) fabric that won’t irritate skin or eyes.
You also want to ensure that it fits nicely, and the that strap isn’t squeezing too tightly. The strap should keep the mask in place without putting pressure on your head or eyes.
Check to see that the mask blocks light all the way around the edges and around the nose. If you can still see light, you might want a larger mask, one that contours to your face shape better, or one that includes a flap that extends over the bridge of the nose.
If the thought of having something against your eyes weirds you out a bit, there are masks with spaces that allow you to open your eyes if you need to. This is the type of mask I use, and I love it! These are also a great option if you have eyelash extensions.
Shoot For Function Rather Than Style
That mask with cat eyes painted on the front might be super cute, but if it doesn’t fit well or block out light effectively, it’s not going to be of much use.
After all, you’re going to be wearing this mask while you sleep, so the cuteness factor matters far less than its ability to help you knock out. Plus, have you ever tried to snap a selfie while wearing a mask? It takes so. many. tries.
Consider a Cold Mask
One of the best ways to de-puff tired eyes is to chill them out. The cold constricts blood vessels around the eyes and slows the flow of fluid into skin tissues to reduce puffiness. A cold eye mask allows your eyes to rest and is more convenient than cucumber slices and less messy than tea bags.
You can purchase one, or get all kinds of crafty and learn to make one using rice and calming essential oils here.
Eye Mask Alternatives
If an eye sleep mask isn’t really your thing, consider these options to still achieve some top quality rest.
Lavender and Flax Pillow
These pillows are like a heavenly spa experience right in your own house. When you warm up one of these pillows, it releases the soothing scent of lavender. And the softness and gentle weight of one of these pillows on your eyes so super relaxing. I’m getting sleepy just thinking about it!
A Regular Pillow
This is my husband’s personal favorite. He’ll sleep with a pillow over his eyes and ears to block out light and noise. This is a great technique on days when he wants to sleep in a bit or catch a mid afternoon nap.
In desperate times, I’ve made a makeshift eye mask by covering my eyes with a blanket. It totally blocks out light and does the trick. Just make sure not to cover your whole face!
No Mask? You Can Still Look Like Sleeping Beauty
Here are some of my favorite products to make it look like you got a full night’s rest even if you’re rolling sans mask.
This rich, creamy formula works overnight while you sleep (or even if you don’t!) by infusing skin with moisture and anti-aging ingredients so you wake up with glowing, youthful skin.
This cream targets lines around the eyes by boosting collagen production so you can say goodnight to wrinkles. It also includes arnica to soothe delicate skin in the eye area, and vitamins C and E to protect against free radicals. All of this combines to fight signs of fatigue so you’re left with bright, youthful eyes!
This popular anti-aging cream restores your eyes’ youth and glow with a powerful blend of shea butter, hyaluronic acid, and antioxidants that banish wrinkles, puffy eyes and dark circles. It’ll have you looking like you got a full eight hours even if you only got a tossing-and-turning five.
This concealer is great for covering up those pesky dark circles. The illuminating, mineral-rich formula conceals and evens skin tone, while hydrating ingredients moisturize delicate skin. Bonus: the noncomedogenic formula protects sensitive skin from irritation while providing an antioxidant blend of vitamins for radiant, fresh eyes.
Pro Tip: An eye high light pencil does wonders to lighten and brighten the eye area. Apply after foundation to corner and edge of the eye as well as under the eyebrow on the brow bone.
This duo pencil lets you choose between illuminating shimmer and classic matte to create the illusion of larger, brighter eyes.
My favorite everyday mascara! Mascara is one of the quickest ways to wake up sleepy eyes, and this one from Blinc employs amazing “tube” technology. When applied, this mascara creates little tubes around each lash rather than just being painted on. Which means it won’t smudge, clump, flake or run even if you cry or rub your tired eyes, making it great for those with sensitive eyes or contact wearers.
When you're ready to wash off your make up, it slides right off your lashes with warm water and some gentle cleansing, so you don’t have to use harsh makeup remover on your eyes! I struggle with dark circles, so I love that this mascara doesn’t make my dark circles look worse by staining the skin after washing my face.
We all know how important it is to wash your makeup off before you go to bed. You might as well treat your face with this delightful honey cleanser which actually warms up while you cleanse! It’s so soothing, it will send you right into dream land.
Sleep masks are, indeed, a great way to achieve some deeper sleep, and good sleep is vitally important to our health and beauty.
There are a lot of options as far as masks go, so make sure you find the right one with the right fit for you.
Whether or not you decide to use a mask, please do whatever works for you to make sure you’re get enough sleep and taking care of your marvelous self.
Have you tried a sleep mask? What do you think? Share with us in the comments section!