We’re all not nearly getting enough good quality slumber, with only 21 per cent of Americans getting the recommended seven to eight hours a night.
Light is an external factor that can play havoc with our bodies and affect our shut-eye. With black-out curtains a luxury we can’t all carry around with us, we need to look for other solutions.
Luckily for you we have the perfect essential accessory – sleep masks! They may be small in size but the benefits are huge…
1: Improves your sleep quality
As explained by the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School, we all have “light sensitive” cells in the retina of our eyes and they tell the brain when it’s daytime or nighttime and determines our sleep patterns.
For example, if you’re normally early to bed but become exposed to light, you’re not going to fall asleep at your normal time and could miss out on the benefits of sleeping early.
A study has also been carried out by Chinese researchers investigating whether sleep masks (and ear plugs to block out noises) affect your sleep.
As part of the study, the participants’ urine was analyzed for melatonin (the sleep inducing hormone) levels.
The research indicated that the use of sleep masks and ear plugs led to more deeper quality sleep, that was less disrupted, with elevated melatonin levels.
2: Fall asleep quicker
There’s nothing worse than tossing and turning in bed as you struggle to fall asleep.
According to Dr Alanna Hare of London’s Royal Brompton Hospital Centre for Sleep, wearing a sleep mask reduces the time spent laying awake in bed.
This is because complete darkness boosts your body’s melatonin level which will send you to sleep much quicker than if you weren’t wearing a sleep mask.
3: Saves your life
A sleep mask is a cost effective investment in your health with life-saving benefits.
Sleeping in total darkness allows your body to secrete as much melatonin as possible. When you don’t produce enough melatonin, you increase the risk of deadly diseases.
Did you know that melatonin is also an antioxidant?
It can help prevent damage to your DNA that aging, exposure to cancer-causing chemicals, or harmful rays from the sun may cause.
It’s really important to protect your DNA because any damage could potentially cause cancer.
4: Blocks out harmful light
We’re surrounded by blue light all the time – from our night stand alarm clocks, to the glare off our smartphones and the glow from our televisions.
During the day this type of light isn’t a concern as it has many positives – it boosts attention time, reaction time and moods.
However, at night, it’s a whole other story. It’s a massive sleep disruptor and can be detrimental to our health.
Light of any kind reduces the secretion of melatonin, but blue light takes it even further.
At Harvard, researchers carried out an experiment to examine the effects of 6.5 hours of exposure to blue light versus exposure to green light with comparable levels of brightness.
They discovered that the blue light suppressed melatonin for about twice as long as the green light and shifted circadian rhythms by twice as much (3 hours vs. 1.5 hours).
5: Reduces depression
A sleep mask can do wonders for your mental health.
A longitudinal study, involving more than 800 Japanese adults, has also indicated that getting shut-eye in complete darkness reduces depression.
Through this experiment, people who saw more than five lux at night (to put this into context, 10 lux is like looking at a candle from about 10 foot away) were more likely to develop symptoms of depression, as opposed to those sleeping in complete darkness.
6: Makes you more relaxed
There’s a bunch of scientific research supported by the National Sleep Foundation that the power of touch can improve sleep quality.
The science behind this is that ‘deep touch pressure’ stimulation promotes the release of serotonin, a chemical that regulates sleep.
You won’t only feel more relaxed and reduce feelings of anxiety, but these microbeads gently shape your face for the ultimate light blocking experience.
7: Improves your skin
The right sleep masks will leave the skin looking youthful as they fight signs of aging.
It’s worth getting hold of a silk sleep mask. They are jam-packed full of natural proteins.
If you have sensitive skin the mulberry variety (see the example below) is the one to pick. It contains a protein called sericin which reduces the chance of any allergic reactions.
The silk will not only feel soft and smooth against your skin, it will also help regulate body temperature (much needed for sleep to incur), and control moisture.
It will leave you feeling warm in the winter and cold in the summer, making it an excellent sleeping aid.
8: Great for travel
Whether you’re trying to get some good quality sleep in a heavily lit plane or a hotel room without proper black-out curtains, the light will have a detrimental effect on your sleep.
A sleep mask will be your saving grace! They are portable and small enough to slip into your travel bag with ease.
According to Condé Nast Traveler it’s a must-have item if you want to get forty winks on the plane. Clinical sleep psychologist and Associate Professor of Medicine at UCLA swears by them.