Sleep is a science. And getting a good night’s rest relies on a balance of hormones, comfort and darkness, which is exactly where an eye mask comes in handy. Stylist looks into just how effective they are for sleeping, and selects the best ones.
How are you sleeping right now? Like a baby, heading to bed early and racking up the hours? Or not at all: struggling to drift off and then struggling even more to stay asleep when you do? If the conversations I’ve been having with friends recently are anything to go by, when it comes to sleep, there just doesn’t appear to be a middle ground right now.
According to the Sleep Foundation, most healthy adults need seven to nine hours of sleep each night, however some (very impressive) individuals can run off a mere six hours. But for those of us who struggle to fall asleep, even the lower end of those estimates can feel pretty daunting.
There are, of course, simple tactics you can use to help ease your way into sleep. You could use an essential oil-based bath or shower gel, like Elemental Herbology’s Lemongrass and Nutmeg Body Wash, £19 in the evening, or mist your pillow with a lavender-infused pillow spray. It makes sense — if we have set routines for our skin and hair, it’s only right that we create a sleep routine. And one step that many people praise for its ability to speed up the sleep process and simultaneously slow their body down is wearing an eye mask.
Eye masks have long been thought to help with conditions from migraines to dry eyes, and help people shut out the outside world and drift off. But are they really the helpful aid we need to improve our journey towards better sleep?
We spoke to sleep expert Anandi, also known as The Sleep Guru, to first uncover the reasons behind sleepless nights and then find out more about the benefits of wearing an eye mask.
Why do some people find it hard to fall asleep?
“Your sleep is goverened by the light and dark cycles and if you respect those cycles, your body is able to get into a good rhythm.” says sleep expert, Anandi. “If your body is out of rhythm, you may be producing melatonin at the wrong time of day. Making sure you get plenty of daylight during the day is important, but make sure you cut down your light levels in the evening. Try and make sure the room is completely dark when you go to bed.”
What are the benefits of using eye masks for sleeping?
“The sleep hormones are light sensitive. It’s important to get out in day light as early in the morning as possible. In the evening, it’s important to make sure the lights are turned down so that the melatonin production is not inhibited,” explains Anandi. Light control and levels may seem like a dissmisable factor, but they play a huge part in our sleep pattern. “If there’s any light coming in through the curtains or any of the doors at night and you are a light sleeper, a sleep mask will help. If there’s no light, melatonin will be produced which is your sleep hormone,” she says. Masks block out the light when you’re having trouble doing so naturally.
Why is the light such an important factor when it comes to sleeping?
When we sleep, there’s a cycle our brains follow. According to Sleep.org, the first stage involves falling into a light sleep which takes around seven minutes. During this time, our brains send alpha waves, leaving us in a state where we’re calm, but not yet asleep. Stage two usually involves our brain waves slowing down and stages three and four involve our brains producing slower delta waves, where we go into a deep sleep. The final stage, REM (rapid eye movement) is where our brains become more active, playing a really crucial part in our learning and memory functions.
In a study conducted by the Sleep Foundation, they found that overall, the use of eye masks promoted better sleep and hormone balance through the effect they have on REM. The time the participants were in REM was longer, the time between the start of sleep (stage one) and the start of REM was shorter, they were less aroused and distracted and melatonin, the hormone responsible for light changes saw an increase.
Who should use eye masks?
Anyone can wear an eye mask for sleeping, but, they’re particularly beneficial for those with certain sleep conditions. “If you’re an insomniac and you have issues, then an eye mask would be extremely helpful,” says Anandi. In addition to building up a sleep routine, the NHS also recommend to cut down on caffeine, exercising regularly and making your bed as comfortable as possible.
We know that eye masks can help us on our way to getting a more restful sleep quicker, but which masks help with what? Without going into a long rigmarole about the shapes, sizes and materials, we’ve curated a list of masks that are suited to particular needs.
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These are the best eye masks for sleeping:
The best eye mask bundle
Neom Organics Beauty Sleep in a Box, £28
Specially scented with essential oil aromas, this eye mask comes with Neom’s own best-selling face oil and pillow mist. If you’re looking to start from scratch with your sleep routine, this is a great selection to start with.
The eyelash-friendly eye mask
Smug Contoured 3D Blackout Sleep Mask, £12
For those who are particularly precious about their eyelashes, Smug’s eye mask is sculpted to leave enough space in the eye area for movement. A friction-free option, these masks are available in five different designs, with bundles featuring memory foam earplugs.
The best silk eye mask
Slip Silk Mask, £45
Made from the highest grade silk, each part of Slip’s masks are made of the material. From the filler, to the internal liner and the elastic band.
£45, Look Fantastic
The best self-heating eye mask
Spacemasks, £15 for 5
Whether you deal with headaches or eye strain, Spacemasks eye masks are activated by air to retain moisture and provide a gentle heating effect. Scented with a soothing jasmine aroma, the foil masks are made for optimum relaxation. While they are disposable, they’re also fully recyclable.
£15 for 5, Cult Beauty
The best budget eye mask
Gritin Sleep Mask, £7.99
Favoured by Amazon users, the Gritin sleep mask uses silk as its main material and comes with ear plugs to reduce noise. Slightly larger than normal, the mask keeps your eyes in the shade at all times.
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