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January 7, 2022

8 Benefits to Wearing a Sleep Mask

Do sleep masks really work? Our data says "yes."

By Mark Van Deusen

One of the best things you can do to improve the quality of your sleep may also be one of the easiest–just wear an eye mask to bed. Below we’ll explore how sleep masks work, their potential benefits, what to look for in choosing one, and the positive impact they have on WHOOP members’ sleep data.

 

How Do Eye Masks Help You Sleep?

The basic premise of a sleep mask is very simply to block any light from reaching your eyes. Exposure to light when you’re trying to sleep confuses your circadian rhythm, the body’s 24-hour internal clock that regulates sleep patterns.

“Our circadian rhythms are essentially set by light,” states Emily Capodilupo, VP of Data Science and Research, on the WHOOP Podcast. “If you have even very small amounts of light in your bedroom you’re pretty much telling your body it’s daytime, which means don’t sleep, and you actually inhibit the production of the sleep promoting hormone melatonin.”

 

Who Should Try a Sleep Mask?

Chances are, almost everyone can likely benefit from going to sleep with an eye mask on.

“Light impacts my sleep and there’s quite a bit of evidence to support that,” says WHOOP VP of Performance Kristen Holmes, also on our podcast. “I wear a mask to filter out all the light and make it dark, dark, dark. To me, that’s been a game changer in terms of my sleep data. You spend more time in deeper stages of sleep and you’re just not interrupted by light, which is going to wake you up.”

In particular, a sleep mask may be useful for anybody who:

  • Suffers from insomnia
  • Is a light sleeper
  • Works night shifts or has to sleep during the day
  • Travels frequently

 

Benefits of Sleep Masks

When WHOOP members report wearing a sleep mask there are substantial improvements in their sleep and next-day recovery. On average, their total time asleep increases by 27 minutes, they see a 2% gain in REM sleep, and their recovery is boosted by 9%.

sleep mask improves whoop recovery

Wearing a sleep mask improves WHOOP members sleep and recovery.

We found these stats to be generally consistent across all age groups, and for both men and women. Our analysis considered possible confounding factors as well, meaning we controlled for other behaviors to help you sleep (like wearing blue-light blocking glasses or reading before bed) that you might also engage in when wearing an eye mask.

Beyond more time asleep, increased REM sleep, and better recovery, here are 5 additional benefits of sleep masks:

  • Stop distractions and prevent you from viewing screened devices in bed. You’re not going to look at your phone or turn on the TV if you’ve got a mask on.
  • Cheap and easy. A sleep mask costs a lot less than blackout curtains and is much simpler than trying to eliminate all sources of light around you.
  • Travel well. You might have complete darkness in your bedroom at home, but that can be extremely difficult to replicate anywhere else you sleep.
  • Improve dry itchy eyes. Covering your eyes may prevent them from being exposed to dust, dry air, or other potential irritants.
  • Protect your skin. Over time, a mask can help preserve the delicate skin around your eyes and stave off wrinkles.

 

What You Should Look For in a Sleep Mask

In order to get the most out of a sleep mask, it’s important to find the right one for you. Here are some key characteristics to look for:

  • Make sure you find it comfortable, easy to wear, and that it doesn’t bother you if you have sensitive skin
  • Check to see that it blocks out ALL light
  • Avoid masks that feel too tight–an adjustable strap may be useful
  • Get one that fits your sleeping style (for example, one that won’t slide off or put pressure on your face if you sleep on your side)

 

Track the Impact of Wearing a Sleep Mask with WHOOP

With the WHOOP Journal feature you can log when you wear a mask to bed, as well as many other behaviors that can have an effect on how well you sleep. Along with detailed sleep tracking, WHOOP uses the data to give you actionable insights as to which things positively or negatively impact your sleep.

 

RELATED: Read how melatonin, magnesium, and eating before bed affect your sleep.

 

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Mark Van Deusen

Mark Van Deusen is the Content Manager at WHOOP. Before joining WHOOP, Mark served as the Managing Editor and Head Writer for CelticsLife.com. He was also a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a contributor at Yahoo Sports. A former tennis coach, Mark graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in Sociology and Leadership Studies.

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