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    The Nap Blog

    How to Choose the Best Eye Mask for Sleeping

    How to Choose the Best Eye Mask for Sleeping

    A good sleep mask is an essential accessory for creating a comfortable sleep environment at night. Nighttime light is everywhere in our modern lives - from the digital light of your alarm clock to the street lamps shining through your curtains - which makes it harder to get a healthy and rejuvenating rest. 

    A good eye mask is a simple, affordable and proven sleep hygiene solution to help you rest better at night or for naps. They even help get over jet lag when traveling to different time zones.

    But how to choose? We all have different needs, habits, preferences, sizes and shapes. There are so many products available to buy, with so many different features and materials.

    When a good night of rest is at stake, how do you make sure you get the best sleep mask for you? We'll walk you through the things you need to know as you shop around for the right one.

    Softness

    You'll be wearing your eye mask for hours every night, so you make sure the backing material you choose feels comfortable against your skin. The last thing you want is to wake up with dry, itchy eyes from a poor quality fabric. There are a few materials that are commonly used for sleep masks.

    Soft cotton flannelette sleep mask

    Soft cotton flannelette sleep mask by Forty Winks Co.

    Cotton

    Cotton is a warm, cozy and natural material that will feel super soft against your skin and conform nicely to your face. Organic cotton is great for people with sensitive skin or allergies. 

    Silk sleep mask

    Slip silk sleep mask by slip™ for beauty sleep

    Silk

    Silk has a cool, luxurious feel that loosely brushes your skin and doesn't rub or pull in the way that other materials could. If you're a side sleeper though, it could more easily move around on your face during the night.

    Bamboo sleep mask

    Bamboo sleep mask Dear Lil' Devas

    Bamboo

    Bamboo is a popular material for sleep masks because it's cool and smooth and breathable. It's also sometimes made stretchy so it fits snugly and comfortably against your face. 

    Polyester sleep mask

    Polyester sleep mask by H&M

    Polyester

    Polyester is commonly used for sleep masks because it's durable and less expensive. It may not be a natural material but it can be very soft - think fleece or satin - if made in a high quality. There are a lot of great polyester sleep masks.

    Of course, all of these materials are only as soft as the manufacturers make them. So look for a mask that uses good quality materials on the side that touches your skin. 

    Sleep mask with nose flap

    The Blissfully Dark sleep mask has several features to help block out all light.

    Light Blocking

    The whole reason to wear a sleep mask is to block out light, so naturally it's important to buy a sleep mask that blocks out all light. Sounds simple, but light is good at sneaking its way in. There are a few things to consider.

    The material 

    Some sleep masks use only one or two layers of material, which can let some light in. If you're planning to sleep or nap in bright environments, like aircraft cabins, look for a mask that uses several layers of light blocking material, or has an inner lining of foam, cotton wadding or something similar.

    If you plan to sleep in a fairly dark room, you might be more comfortable in a thinner lightweight eye mask, even if it's not completely light-blocking.

    The colour of the backing material matters too. A dark material for the back of the mask will help absorb light that does make its way in.

    The shape

    The easiest way for light to get in is around the edges of the mask, especially around the nose. 

    If you really want to make sure no light gets in, look for a mask that conforms well to your face. Many sleep masks have nose flaps and other features to seal out light at the edges. Some have stretchy fabric to help hold the mask closer to your skin. Others offer a highly structured shape made of foam that fits snugly to the shape your face.

    Flexible sleep mask

    A flexible lightweight sleep mask by Go Travel

    Flexibility

    The ideal flexibility of a sleep mask is all about preference. If you're a side sleeper, you'll probably want to look for a sleep mask that is thinner and more flexible, so that it doesn't press into your face or shift around during the night. No one wants to wake up with face indentations in the morning! 

    On the other hand, a more rigid mask will hold its shape better to avoid letting in light around the edges or putting pressure on your eyes. 

    Molded sleep mask

    Molded sleep mask with contoured eye recesses by Nidra

    Pressure

    There are two common pressure points that can cause discomfort when wearing sleep masks - your eyes and your nasal root.

    During REM sleep your eyes do a lot of moving, and having a mask against your face can put a slight amount of pressure on them. For some people a little bit of gentle pressure on the face can be be soothing and relaxing, while others find it uncomfortable. It comes down to preference. 

    If you're sensitive to blocking out all light but you don't like fabric against your eyes, or you want to be able to open your eyes inside the mask to gaze into the darkness, look for a contoured sleep mask. They usually have a structured shape with cavities or recesses on the inside to keep the material away from your eyes and lashes.

    Most people will find a soft, flexible sleep mask to be comfortable and practical as long as it's not too tight. For most people it's all about finding the sweet spot. A tighter a mask will stay in place and block out light better. But that's no use if it's not comfortable.

    Sleep mask with adjustable backstrap

    Sleep mask with adjustable backstrap by Aura

    Adjustibility

    Heads come in all shapes and sizes, and there is no standard sizing for sleep masks. Most are one-size-fits-all. So it's important to find a mask that conforms comfortably to your face.

    That's why the back strap is an important feature of a sleep mask. It has to hold the mask to your face with the perfect amount of snugness, without digging into the back of your head.

    Look for a wide, comfortable back strap that distributes the pressure, and isn't so plush that it will press against your head on the pillow. Many straps are stretchy, which is comfortable as long as its the right amount of stretchy. 

    Velcro is commonly used for adjustability which is simple and effective, but it can be a little fussy and noisy at night. Other sleep masks offer a small adjustable fabric knot, metal ring, buckle or something similar that can be quietly slid back and forth for adjustment. Just make sure it's not too big and won't press into your head at night in your preferred sleeping positions. 

    Breathable sleep mask

     Light breathable sleep mask in cool bamboo by Nite Hood

    Coolness and Breathability

    A good sleep depends on maintaining a cool and comfortable body temperature through the night. If you tend to run hot, coolness and breathability will be an important sleep mask feature for you.

    You may want to choose a sleep mask that has fewer layers of fabric - even if you have to compromise a little on light blocking. Look for a material that's breathable like bamboo, or lightweight like silk.

    On the other hand, if you're planning to use your mask to sleep while traveling, like on long flights, then you might prefer something that blankets your eyes in warmth and coziness instead.

    Stylish sleep masks

    Stylish sleep mask designs by Aura

    Fashion 

    Let's face it: style matters when you're sleeping too. Fashion might not help your sleep quality. But hey, some of us just have an aesthetic. The style of your sleep mask says something about you, just like the rest of your wardrobe.

    A lot of great sleep masks fall short on fashion, but thankfully there are plenty of great-looking styles in high quality masks for men and women of all ages.

    Special Features

    Some eye masks have special features to help you stay comfortable at night. 

    Lavender sleep mask

    Lavender filled sleep mask by My Stitching Fun

    Lavender

    Lavender aromatherapy is known to stabilize your mood, help you feel less stressed and improve sleep. Which is just want you want when it's time to put on your sleep mask. Some masks feature a subtle infusion of lavender scent in the fabric, and others add actual lavender flowers between the layers.

    Cooling gel sleep mask

    Sleep mask with cooling gel insert by Gentle Dreams

    Cooling gel

    Cool gel inserts are popular in sleep masks to sooth tired eyes and reduce puffiness, especially after a long day at a computer. You can keep them in the fridge or give them a cold blast in the freezer before putting them on. Because the coolness wears off after a while, gel masks are generally better for naps rather than a full night of sleep.

    You can also often use them as a warming mask by placing the gel inserts in warm water before you wear them.

    Sleep mask with headphones

    Headphones that double as a sleep mask by SleepPhones

    Built-in headphones

    White noise and sleep sounds are a popular and effective way to relax and fall asleep. If enveloping yourself in tranquil darkness with soothing tones sounds like bliss to you, then built-in headphones could be a feature to look for.

    There are only a few good sleep masks that offer this feature, so they're hard to find. But they are out there. Many use Bluetooth connectivity to avoid getting tangled in cords. Just watch out for low-quality gimmicky devices - if its uncomfortable or unreliable it may end up distracting you from sleep instead.

    Sleep mask with carry pouch

    Sleep mask with linen carry pouch by My Stitching Fun

    Carry pouch

    Many sleep masks were made with travelers in mind. If that's what you plan to use it for, you might look out for a mask that includes a pouch to keep it clean and in good condition. Some masks also come with handy ear plugs included too.

    Who knew that something as simple as a sleep mask could be so complicated! We wish you a good sleep, and before you decide which sleep mask is for you, be sure to shop our collection of high-quality sleep mask brands at The Nap Store.

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