Can’t Sleep? 3 Benefits of a Sleep Mask
Millions of people across the United States suffer from sleep problems. Either they can’t sleep all the way through the night or have trouble getting to sleep in the first place. There are many different tools that are used to improve sleep, including the sleep mask. A sleep mask is a lightweight mask made of fabric that is meant to comfortably fit around your head and cover your eyes at night while you sleep. Although some people complain that they are uncomfortable, those who use them regularly will swear by their benefits. Here are 3 benefits of a sleep mask that even research supports:
- Elevated Melatonin Levels. A 2010 Study published by BioMed Central Ltd.,(1) took a look at patients in the ICU to determine if the use of sleep masks (eye masks) would be beneficial to their sleep. Because these patients often can’t sleep due to bright lights and loud noises, they wanted to see if using a sleep mask would be beneficial. They found that not only did the sleep mask block out the light and promote healthy sleep, but it also resulted in an increase of nocturnal melatonin levels. Melatonin is a naturally occurring hormone produced by the brain that regulates your body’s internal sleep-wake cycles. Because darkness signals the body to produce more melatonin, the sleep mask is helpful in creating that effect.
- Increased Longer Rapid Eye Movement (REM) Sleep. The average adult spends about 20% of his/her sleep in REM. This is the deep sleep cycle where dreams happen. Unfortunately, those who can’t sleep well do not get as much REM as others. Smoking or drinking alcohol can also contribute to less REM sleep. The same 2010 study from BioMed Central(1) also found that using a sleep mask can increase the length of time we spend in REM, and REM latency (how many REM cycles experienced in one night). This is an important benefit of sleep masks. Almost all people who can’t sleep well suffer from too little REM sleep, which is hard for the body to recover from.
- Affordability. In the big picture, billions of dollars are spent every year to help improve the night for those who can’t sleep. A separate study published in October 2007(2) found that not only were eye masks helpful, but so affordable that it should be a matter of routine nursing practice to offer them and instruct patients on how to use them. At the time, eye masks and ear plugs could be provided for less than $3.50 per pair. Of course, now they have an enormous amount of designs that are trendy and cute. However, a simple and basic eye mask is an affordable option for someone who can’t sleep well and is looking for help.
The sleep mask is beneficial to more than just people who can’t sleep well. It also helps travelers who find themselves in different time zones and needing sleep when it’s still light outside. If you have a job that requires you to work during the night and sleep during the day the sleep mask may also benefit you by providing a better sense of darkness to your body. Though some people find it difficult to wear a sleep mask, most report it becomes easier after a few tries. Don’t give up immediately if you can’t sleep. Give the sleep mask a few days and see if you start to feel the benefits.
1. Hu, R. F., et al. “Effects of earplugs and eye masks on nocturnal sleep, melatonin and cortisol in a simulated intensive care unit environment.” Crit Care14.2 (2010): R66.
2. Richardson, Annette, et al. “Earplugs and eye masks: do they improve critical care patients’ sleep?.” Nursing in critical care 12.6 (2007): 278-286.
Photo Credit: This Year’s Love