Don’t you just love a good night’s sleep?
I love sleeping. It is this amazing break from having to live an exhausting life. Sleep is the human equivalent of switching off and on again. It solves most problems or at least gives us the energy and will to face them. Sleep has numerous benefits for the mental and physical well being of a person. So it’s no wonder everyone wants to be able to sleep well.
However, getting sleep isn’t always an easy task. Around 30% of adults have a problem sleeping or deal with insomnia. Therefore, it is very important to maintain a healthy sleep routine. While many know the importance of sleeping for at least 8 hours or having a steady sleeping schedule. People often neglect a very essential aspect of getting good sleep, which is the absence of light. It is not just a matter of preference as blocking light during sleep has scientifically proven benefits.
To put it simply, there are certain body processes that we depend on to sleep. One of them is our body clock or circadian rhythm. Our body clock works to recognize when we should be asleep or awake. The way our body clock is configured is that whenever it senses a lot of light, it assumes we have to stay awake. Thus, it does not produce the hormones necessary for sleep. A 2011 study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism noted that exposure to light suppressed the onset of melatonin, which is an essential sleep hormone, by about 90 minutes. This means that we miss out on a lot of time where we could be sleeping.
So naturally, when it is dark, our body clock requires us to sleep and thus produces sleep hormones and pushes up to sleep. Therefore, to sleep well we need to eliminate light and find darkness. While this sounds like the pitch to make you a villain, my suggestion is more hero related. Wear a mask!
Not exactly the mask heroes wear nor the kind that protects us from Covid-19. But the kind that improves sleep – a sleep mask!
What is a sleep mask? It is a simple mask that covers your eyes. It can be a light mask or a weighted mask. The basic aim of it is to restrict light from reaching your eyes.
Benefits of Sleep Masks
Sleep masks are not just a fashion trend but an effective tool to aid people with a night of better and longer sleep. It also helps in putting people to sleep faster. Both adults and children can use eye masks to improve the quality of sleep. Apart from insomnia, weighted eye masks also provide relief from Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder, Depression and anxiety, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, Dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Many scientists also endorse the use of sleep masks to cure insomnia. This is because the ill effects of light pollution have been proven by countless scientific studies. A study by the National Sleep Foundation found that participants who slept with eye masks experienced both physical and psychological benefits. They had a much healthier sleep than those who did not wear masks. The study also confirmed that those who wore sleep masks experienced an increase in the length of their REM cycle.
Listed below are the numerous ways in which sleep masks are beneficial-
Cheap and Effective Way to Reduce Insomnia
Many people who suffer from insomnia turn to therapy or medication to cure it. Therapy is costly and it requires you to shell out a sizeable amount of money. Medication, too, is expensive. It is also dangerous as medicines, both prescription and over the counter, can be habit-forming or come with side effects.
On the other hand, sleep masks are cheap and easily available. They trick your mind into believing its time for sleep. They are a non-chemical and low-risk alternative to reduce insomnia.
Masks Have Cosmetic Benefits
Do you often wake up with the pattern of your wrinkled pillowcase on your face? This may not be as harmless as you think. The pressure on your skin and the constant rubbing of your skin against the pillow can lead to wrinkles and crow’s feet around your eyes. Sleep masks can help reduce this by adding a preventive layer between your skin and the pillow. Many masks are made of gentle material such as silk in order to protect the delicate skin around your eyes.
Another cosmetic benefit of masks is that they reduce the puffiness around the eyes. Therefore, when you are short on sleep but want to wake up looking fresh, sleep masks come to your rescue. Many masks use innovative ways to aid this. Some masks have a layer of cooling gel in them to help with puffiness. Other masks make use of materials such as charcoal to reduce the dryness and swelling around the eyes.
Help reduce headaches
If you suffer from migraines, you know that light can be your enemy. A common feature of chronic migraines is light sensitivity. Now imagine if they strike during the daytime. Eye masks come in handy in such situations. They provide total darkness and some masks may also have cooling or heating features that provide further relief.
Even if you don’t have migraines, eye masks can be used during normal headaches, hangovers, and when you overstrain your eyes.
Cooling gel sleep masks help reduce headache pains by numbing out the pain. Weighted masks combine pressure therapy that can help alleviate pain.
Combines the Effects of Aromatherapy
Aromatherapy is all the rage. Numerous people find certain smells calming and thus it helps their sleep.
Some eye masks come equipped with calming fragrances, thus combining the benefits of sleep masks and aromatherapy. These calming scents also help to induce sleep. Many essential oils and herbs have a sleep-inducing effect. For example, lavender, cedarwood, sage, valerian, and bergamot are smells typically associated with improving sleep. Many masks also give you the option to switch scents.
Helps prevent dry eyes
The air-conditioning or fans in our house constantly blow on us while we sleep. The dry air, dust, and other particles can enter our eyes and act as irritants. This is worse for people who have nocturnal lagophthalmos – the inability to close their eyes fully when they sleep. Using eye masks can protect eyes from these irritants. Using a mask can keep your eyes safe from dryness and itching.
Sleep on the go
Most of us experience difficulty sleeping while travelling. Flights, trains or cars are never ideal for sleeping. But by using eye masks, we can create a cocoon around ourselves and get better sleep. Masks ensure that light does not disrupt our sleep and also helps in inducing sleep during the day.
Some brands specialize in travel-centric sleep masks, with durable materials for use on the road or dual-purpose designs that can also serve as a pillow.
Eye masks are often underrated but regular their regular use is greatly beneficial. It is a very positive sleep habit to inculcate. Furthermore, they come in numerous styles. Some are light, others are weighted. Many come with adjustable straps. Contoured Maks can be used if you don’t like pressure on your eyelids. They come in various materials ranging from simple cotton to silk to soft fur. Therefore, you have the option to chose the mask that fits you best!
Does a sleep mask help you get good sleep?
Sleep masks help to block light from entering your eyes. They trick the brain into thinking it is time to sleep, thus attracting sleep. Humans are naturally diurnal, meaning we were awake during the day and slept at night. Our brains are hard-wired into associating darkness with sleep and they produce melatonin in the absence of light. Because our brain associates darkness with sleep, we may help with insomnia. Masks improve the quality and length of sleep too.
What are the best kinds of eye masks for sleeping?
There are various kinds of eye masks available for use. These include -
Silk Sleep Mask - It’s made with smooth silk fibres that can help reduce friction or stretching on the eye area, and most importantly, it feels great on your skin.
Contoured Sleep Masks - The soft inner material cups the eye area, completely blocking out light without adding uncomfortable pressure and fits ergonomically around the nose.
Aromatic Masks - Combines aromatherapy to induce better sleep.
What are the side effects of sleep masks?
Eye masks for sleep don’t have any explicit side effects. However, if you are sleeping in a hot room, they may cause sweating. This may also lead to acne for some people. In this case, using a light mask made from breathable material will be beneficial. If the strap is tied too tightly it may cause discomfort.
Featured Photo by The Creative Exchange on Unsplash
Written by Tuhina Sahai
Tuhina Sahai is a law student studying at Symbiosis Law School, Pune. She enjoys meeting new people and making friends. She finds as much comfort in going on outdoor adventures as she does in sitting in her room with a book, sipping tea. She is an avid reader and enjoys the works of authors John Grisham, Khaled Hosseini, Paulo Coelho, Arundhati Roy, etc. She is passionate about music and art.
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