Whether you have a long flight or you’re trying to nap in a hotel room once you reach your destination, it can be challenging to sleep under fluorescent airplane lights or with natural light beaming through sheer curtains. However, when it comes to getting quality shut-eye at any hour of the day in any place, there are two major factors to consider.
“There are two things that really play into controlling sleep: temperature and light,” explains Devin Burke, sleep expert and founder of Sleep Science Academy. “So obviously, light is the one that factors in when we’re talking about a sleep mask.” Sleep masks provide travelers with a much-needed respite in varied brightness conditions and help them avoid jet lag and grogginess, too.
“There’s the production of melatonin that gets released as a result of the sun setting, so using an eye mask or manipulating your light environment can have an impact on sleep,” Burke says. “You want to look for a blackout eye mask. Sometimes there are masks that can kind of create pressure around the eyes, so you want to look for a mask that has zero pressure around the eyes and something that is soft.”
After getting Devin Burke’s advice to look for a light-blocking sleep mask with zero eye pressure, that’s also washable, breathable, and soft, here’s our breakdown of top picks:
Tips for Buying a Sleep Mask
Pay attention to the details
When you’re searching for a sleep mask, there are a few things to always keep in mind. Choosing a total blackout mask is probably the most important detail, especially if you’re very sensitive to light. If you find one that suits you, making sure the material is breathable is another important factor for long-time wear. Lastly, soft materials like silk and cotton are good picks when it comes to a comfortable mask.
Consider the washing instructions
It’s definitely not the end-all, be-all, but a sleep mask that’s machine washable is much easier to care for than one that needs to be hand washed.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do I really need a sleep mask?
If you travel often, it’s a valuable accessory. “I think it’s a travel necessity, honestly,” says Burke. “I think it should be in everyone’s bag that cares about sleep. It’s a great resource if you’re in a hotel or you’re in a plane and you’re trying to sleep; it’s a fantastic tool to help you do that.”
Are sleep masks safe for my eyes?
There aren’t many safety issues to consider here. “It’s not invasive to wear an eye mask,” Burke says. Look for one that’s “breathable and soft,” and made from materials that are gentle on the skin.
How should a sleep mask fit?
You’ll want to avoid tightening the mask too much but, at the same time, a snug fit will keep the mask on properly throughout the night. Adjustable straps are helpful to keep the mask securely attached to your head, and offer protection against straps that otherwise might stretch out over time.
Should I buy a mask based on how I sleep?
Yes. When buying a sleep mask, it’s extremely important to think about how you normally sleep. For example, if you’re a side sleeper, you don’t want to get just any mask, you’ll want to get a one with a tilt design, made for this position.
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Jess Kelly is a travel journalist and photographer living in New York. She’s written for more than 10 different local publications throughout New York, along with national publications like the Huffington Post, Condé Nast Traveler, Food & Wine, Cosmopolitan, Thrillist, Lonely Planet, and more. Follow her travel and adventures on Instagram @Adventures.Are.Waiting!
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