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.
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.”
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:
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%.
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:
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:
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.