Whether you’re prepping for an overnight flight or are just trying to reduce the amount of light in your bedroom, a sleep mask can be a handy thing when it comes to getting quality sleep.
Don’t just settle for the first item you find at Walmart, though!
Not all sleep masks are created equal, and low-quality products tend to be uncomfortable and sometimes barely functional.
Here’s everything you need to know about finding the sleep mask you need.
Why You Need the Dark to Sleep
It might not come as much of a surprise to hear that there’s a strong biological link between darkness and sleep.
For most of our species’ existence, after all, nighttime and sleep-time were basically the same thing.
In a world without artificial lighting or late-night Netflix binge watching, there’s not really much to do after it gets dark except sit around the fire and go to sleep.
As darkness sets on, your brain’s pineal gland starts releasing the hormone melatonin, which is part of what makes you so sleepy at night.
There are actually a number of hormones involved in sleep, but melatonin is the one most sensitive to light – and also the one most directly tied to sleep.
When trying to overcome things like jetlag and chronic insomnia, some people will actually take melatonin pills directly, since they can often (but not always) bring on a sleep response when your sleep-wake cycle is out of whack.
It’s important to realize: if your environment isn’t dark enough, your brain is not going to be releasing enough melatonin.
This is going to lead to all kinds of issues getting yourself powered down for bed, which is part of what makes sleep masks so important!
Too much light equals troubled sleep.
The Pros and Cons of Sleep Masks
There are a couple different schools of thought when it comes to sleep masks, however.
It all really boils down to personal preference.
On the one hand, sleep masks can be a much cheaper and less unwieldy than a pair of blackout curtains, while effectively achieving the same effect.
On the other hand, though, some people find sleep masks simply too uncomfortable to get to sleep.
Most of us aren’t used to having something constantly touching our face, and since a feeling of safety and familiarity is such a crucial component of comfortable rest, some people may take a little while to get used to their sleep masks.
Another issue with sleep masks is that some of them don’t actually block out 100% of the light that might be coming in.
Faces are a really complicated surface, after all, and there’s so much variability between the shape of one face and another.
Because of this, some people may find most sleep masks inadequate for the kind of darkness they really need.
All of the sleep masks we’ll be talking about today have the absolute best reviews from consumers all over the internet, so these are about as light-blocking and comfortable as they come.
No product is perfect, however, and it’s simply not possible to recommend a sleep mask that will work for every person in the world.
Other Ways to Improve Your Sleep
Thankfully, there are a couple other ways you can consider improving your sleep in addition to purchasing a quality sleep mask.
Healthy sleep habits, or “sleep hygiene,” as it’s sometimes called, are absolutely vital to getting the kind of rest you need.
In addition to maximizing darkness while you’re sleeping, for instance, it’s also best to minimize exposure to bright artificial light at night in general.
This is especially true of electronics, since the blue light emitted by their screens inhibits the release of melatonin.
Because of this, most experts recommend putting away the phone and laptop as much as possible at night.
Other tricks for improving your sleep include developing a regular sleep schedule (i.e., no more sleeping in on the weekends), developing soothing nighttime rituals to get your body prepared for rest, limiting your bed use to just sleep and sex, and getting a healthy amount of exercise each day.
Another important consideration for getting better sleep is your mattress.
A high-quality mattress is one of the most vital components of a healthy rest – after all, you can’t really expect to be getting decent sleep if you can’t even get comfortable!
If you’ve been considering purchasing a new mattress, feel free to check out our complete guide to the best beds here.
The Top 5 Sleep Masks
Alright, now without further ado, here they are…
The absolute best sleep masks of 2021!
|Alaska Bear||Unimi||Dream Essentials||Graphine||IMAK|
|Shape||Single flap over both eyes||3D eye cup for each eye||Contoured around eyes and nose||Single flap with gap for nose||Single flap over both eyes|
|Notes||Double-sided luxury silk allows for cool & comfy sleep||Places no pressure on your nose or eyes||Comfortable, blocks out all light||Heated for complete “eye spa” treatment||Features cooling beads for pain relief|
|Price||$9.99||$17.99||$12.99||Out of stock!||$13.40|
The Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask
First up, we have the Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask.
This is the number one most popular sleep mask on all of Amazon, pulling in over 10,000 customer reviews for an average of 4.5 stars!
Not only is it extremely highly-rated, but it’s also unbelievably affordable – about as inexpensive as you could hope for while still getting a decent product!
If those facts alone aren’t enough to sell you on this thing, have a look at some of its specs.
This thing is ridiculously soft, boasting a 500 thread count and (according to its product description) “100% top-quality 19 momme natural mulberry silk.”
This makes for extreme comfort and breathability, so you can sleep with this thing however much you need to – whether at home or in transit.
It’s also highly effective at blocking out all manner of light, unlike many lower-quality sleep masks.
You won’t have to worry about any brightness sneaking in to rob you of the dark you need!
The Unimi Sleep Mask
Another top-quality option is the Unimi Sleep Mask.
This product might look a little different from the sleep masks you’re used to.
Instead of just relying on a single flap of fabric pressed up against your face, the Unimi opts for a more goggle-like effect through a contoured 3D shaping.
Each of your eyes is encapsulated in its own portion of the mask, which eliminates any kind of pressure on your eyes themselves.
This makes the Unimi perfect for those who tend to experience dry eyes, along with anyone who’s just not a fan of anything touching their eyelids.
Another advantage of the Unimi is that, because each of your eyes is given its own section, those with broader or longer noses won’t have to deal with extra light leaking in.
The Unimi offers absolute blackness – and it does all this while still keeping the price tag below $10!
The Dream Essentials Contoured Sleep Mask
Following a design somewhat similar to the Unimi, we have the Dream Essentials Contoured Sleep Mask.
Like its counterpart, the dream essentials features concave eye pockets, so you can snooze without your lids and lashes pressing up against the fabric.
It’s a little less goggle-like than the Unimi, however.
While the Unimi allows a gap where the nose protrudes, the Dream Essentials includes a flap of fabric to rest on top of the nose.
This may be somewhat annoying for people with slightly larger noses, since the mask might be pushed out a little bit, allowing for some light to slip in.
A small minority of reviewers have complained about this – so if you tend to have issues when it comes to sleep masks letting in too much light, the Unimi might be a safer bet.
Overall, however, this is an extremely highly-rated sleep mask.
It’s super comfortable, it blocks out all light, and it’s fairly durable to boot!
Dream Essentials does not disappoint.
The Graphene Heated Eye Mask
The Graphine Heated Eye Mask, meanwhile, has a slightly unusual take on eye mask design.
Whereas most eye masks like to tout how cool and breathable they are, the Graphine actually includes an electric heating pad to help soothe you to sleep the way only warmth can.
Like the Dream Essentials and Unimi, it features contoured design to eliminate any unnecessary pressure on your face.
It charges by USB, and its heating element is set to work for one hour at a time – so you can put this on and go to sleep without having to worry about it running all night!
According to the manufacturer, the infrared light it uses stimulates circulation and increases cell generation, thus allowing for overall better health.
I’m not sure how much scientific backing those kinds of claims actually have, but clearly, the warm, soothing effects of a heated sleep mask are perfect for lulling a certain kind of person to sleep.
The IMAK Compression Pain Relief Mask
Finally, we finish off with the IMAK Compression Pain Relief Mask.
This product is designed specifically for people suffering from headaches, migraines, and sinus pain.
The IMAK takes basically the exact opposite approach as the Graphine.
Rather than heating your face up, it cools you down with soothing beads.
This allows for relief from all kinds of pain you might be having in the area around your eyes, and can also allow for some much-needed relaxation after a long day.
Many products promising similar results tend to get fairly bad reviews overall, but the IMAK is definitely an exception to that rule.
Almost 2,000 Amazon reviewers give it a 4.3 star average!
Conclusion About the Best Sleep Masks
So there you have it – the absolute best sleep masks on the market today.
Hopefully you now know everything you need to make an informed decision about your sleep health.
Never forget just how important you sleep is!
Happy shopping, and pleasant dreams.
Founder and Owner
Ted is the founder and owner of Mattress Guides and is an expert in his field. Ted believes that having the right mattress is key to getting a good night’s sleep and feeling well-rested in the morning.
Updated at November 11, 2020