5 Best Sleep Masks For Blocking Light & Sleeping Easy
Along with a glass of water, a sleep supplement, and a good book, sleep masks are common fixtures on bedside tables everywhere. And for good reason! We asked sleep specialists about how sleep masks can support deep, restorative rest, what to look for when shopping for one, and five great options to help you say lights out to long days.
How sleep masks work.
Sleep masks are cloth coverings you put over your eyes when you want to go to sleep. While they may look a little frivolous, they serve an important function: to block out light.
It turns out that even the tiniest bit of light can send a signal to our brains to stay awake, via an eye-brain connection pathway called the retinal hypothalamic tract.
"If you have light exposure at night too close to bedtime it's almost like your brain is seeing a sunrise at a time when it should be seeing a sunset," says Daniel Rifkin, M.D., the medical director of Sleep Medicine Centers of Western New York.
When this happens, it can throw off our body's circadian rhythm and suppress sleep-promoting hormones like melatonin, Nerina Ramlakhan, Ph.D., physiologist, sleep expert, and author of The Little Book of Sleep: The Art of Natural Sleep, explains.
At this point, you may be thinking, "Isn't that what eyelids are for?" While eyelids do promote darkness pretty well, Rifkin notes that some light can still reach the brain when our eyes are closed—especially when we sleep in bright rooms. This means it's important to keep your sleep environment as dark as possible.
Wearing a sleep mask is one way to block out any excess light that creeps into your sleep space. Those who live in cities, need to sleep during the day, or frequently travel across time zones may find them especially effective—though they're not for everyone. Here are a few other ways to block out light in the bedroom if you find masks too restrictive.
Beyond promoting better sleep quality by blocking out light, some weighted sleep masks can relieve sinus pressure and tension around the eyes.
Ramlakhan adds that sliding one on can also help you draw your attention inward, withdraw from the stimulation of the day, and settle your energy before bed. She cautions, however, that sleep masks are not a cure-all and must always be paired with other healthy sleep habits.
What to look for in a sleep mask.
First and foremost, you'll want to look for a mask that's comfortable for you. Ramlakhan says that natural fabrics such as silk or cotton tend to be nice and soft, "but the key is to look for what suits you best."
Fit is also important. Rifkin notes that masks that are too tight may restrict eye movement and impair deep sleep stages like REM. However, ones that are too loose may fall off in the middle of the night, which you also don't want. "Light exposure in the middle of the night can fragment your sleep or promote wakefulness at the wrong time," he notes.
While sleep masks tend to come with all sorts of bells and whistles these days, the most important thing is that yours fits well and stays comfortably secure all night long or until you need to wake up.
"I always say that it's like Baskin-Robbins ice cream—there are all these flavors of masks," jokes Rifkin. "Some people like vanilla. Some people like chocolate. I never recommend a particular one. It's really whatever's best for you that blocks the light and is also really comfortable."
Once you have that solid foundation of comfort and fit down, special features can be the cherry on top.
Our product recommendations.
With this expert intel in mind, we scoured the web for masks that earn high ratings for their comfort, fit, and ability to block out light. We narrowed it down to five options that would appeal to many different types of sleepers.
Best for sinus relief: Sivio Weighted Eye Mask
Beyond having a snug design that blocks out light, this weighted cotton mask from Sivio comes with a removable layer that you can heat up in the microwave or stick in the freezer for a spa-like experience that's soothing on the sinuses. It's also reversible—with a warm, plush fabric on one side and cooling, breathable bamboo on the other. A thick, adjustable elastic band ensures that it stays snug. Bonus: The outer layer is also machine washable.
Sivio Weighted Eye Mask ($14.99)
Best silk: Blissy Sleep Mask
This silk-soft mask from Blissy gets high reviews for its comfort and fit. It's lightweight, glides right on, and many users say they almost forget they're wearing it at night. It also comes with a silk carrying case for travel and is machine washable.
Blissy Sleep Mask ($39.95)
Best overall: Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask
You'll notice something different about this mask right away: its bottom flap that contours to the shape of your nose. It's meant to block out more light than a typical mask, and if the nearly 30,000 five-star Amazon reviews are any indication, it works! The Mavogel mask earns high marks for its breathable cotton exterior and comfortable five-layer design, too. All that, and also it's the most affordable on the list.
Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask ($8.49)
Best for nightly use: IMAK Compression Pain Relief Mask and Eye Pillow
IMAK's orthopedic-designed sleep mask is filled with tiny beads that provide just the right amount of pressure around the eyes. It also melds to your face shape to block out all incoming light. Firm yet comfortable, it's the eye mask I've personally been using and loving for years. The downside is that it's not machine washable, and its thin band does need to be manually tightened over time.
IMAK Compression Pain Relief Mask and Eye Pillow ($13.54)
Best for traveling: Manta Sleep Mask
This mask is unique because of its roomie eyecups, which are designed not to crush those sensitive lids and can be adjusted to perfectly fit your face shape. It's a bit heftier than other options on the list, and reviewers note that it does tend to fall off if you move around a lot (particularly if you're a side sleeper), making it a better pick to keep in your travel pack for snoozing on a plane, train, or automobile seat.
Manta Sleep Mask ($35)
The bottom line.
We sleep best in dark environments and sleep masks can be helpful for those who are coming up against light at night. Be sure to look for a mask that's comfortable and snug but not tight and that stays secure until you're ready to welcome that morning sun.
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.
Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.