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Guidemaster: Best Sleep Masks for Better Sleep
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Guidemaster: Best Sleep Masks for Better Sleep

Part of our series on getting better sleep.

Do sleep masks actually help you sleep better?

Some people complain that they can’t sleep well if any light is leaking into the room. Others seem to have no problem catching some Z’s with a little ambient light—sometimes even with the lights fully on.

Is the former group a bunch of babies that need to toughen up? Or, for even the deepest sleepers, can light actually have an impact on sleep quality?

Of course, if someone is being stirred or woken up by bright light hitting their eyes, there’s no doubt it’s affecting their sleep. But let’s take someone who can sleep in dimly- or brightly-lit rooms without waking up at all. What does their sleep quality look like?

Well, research has shown pretty definitively that sleeping with the lights on negatively impacts sleep.1Let there be no light: the effect of bedside light on sleep quality and background electroencephalographic rhythms In the linked study, subjects were observed to intermittently stir or completely wake up in a lit room, which is expected. But even beyond that, spectral analysis of their brain waves showed a decrease in those associated with deep, stable, quality sleep.

Simply put, sleep quality improves when sleeping in complete darkness.

Research on the effects of light on sleep make it clear that you want your room to be as dark as possible. But what about when that’s not an option? Blackout curtains can be expensive, so many people opt for sleep masks. And looking at the research, it’s clear that all sorts of face masks can improve sleep quality.

This guide will take a look the advantages of several different types of sleep masks to help you make an informed decision. Sleep tight!

smiling woman wearing a sleep mask
Research shows that lit rooms can decrease sleep quality.


If you’re going to sleep with a mask on your face all night, it’s important for it to be comfortable. Here are a few factors to consider when choosing the best sleep mask for your preferred comfort level.

Strap Type

Many sleep masks are designed as one-size-fits all, which should work for most people. Bear in mind that most straps will stretch out a little over time, leaving the mask slightly looser.

If you have a larger or smaller head, it might be a better idea to grab an adjustable sleep mask so you can tailor the fit to your liking.

Some people find that regular straps of any length are uncomfortable. As a solution, some designs feature an extra broad strap to more comfortably disperse the pressure. Some even wrap all the way around with the some plush material as the front of the mask. It’s like a warm, sleepy hug for your face.

Sleep Masks with Adjustable Straps

Mask Shape

The shape of the sleep mask can also greatly affect how comfortable it is. Most sleep masks are fairly flat in design, which should work for most people. If you have sensitive eyes or take extra care of your eyelashes, though, you may not appreciate the flat pressure.

To accommodate these sensitivities, many sleep masks are shaped with a hollow contour to keep any fabric from touching the eyes. Super comfy!

Contoured Sleep Masks

Mask Material

The material of the face mask comes mostly down to preference. Most masks are made with silk, cotton, and/or some sort of soft foam.

Some people prefer the soothing coolness of silk masks, and others the comfortable breathability of cotton. You really can’t go wrong with either choice.

Many sleep masks also feature memory foam around the eyes. These masks can be super comfortable, and can help ensure there’s no light leakage around the eyes.

If you’re having trouble finding a mask that completely blocks all light, a memory foam face mask might work for you.

Memory Foam Sleep Masks

Temperature Masks: Hot or Cold?

A quick search for face masks will turn up a lot of results for hot and cold variations. These sleep masks often have a pocket into which you can sleep a cooled gel pack or a heated bean pack.

Can hot sleep masks or cold sleep masks help you sleep better?

Cold Sleep Masks

The primary purpose of cool gel eye masks is for cold compression. People who suffer from headaches, allergy symptoms, puffy eyes, sinus pain, or other face-related issues might find relief with a cold sleep mask. There is little downside to trying one, as these masks can also be used without the cooling element.

Research has also demonstrated that people tend to sleep more deeply in comfortably cool environments, as opposed to warm ones.2Ambient temperature and human sleep3Rem Sleep and Ambient Temperature in Man

While a cool gel sleep mask won’t cool down the room, they may help to keep body temperature in an ideal range for sleep. You might find that a cold gel sleep mask and a lighter blanket might be just the thing your needed for some deeper sleep.

Cooling Sleep Masks

Warm Sleep Masks

Though they’re opposites at face value, warm sleep masks can be used for many of the same issues as cold sleep masks. Many people find relief from allergy symptoms, headaches, sinus issues, and more when using these thermal masks. They can also have a positive effect on dry eyes.

Warm sleep masks come in a variety of styles and heating mechanisms. The most basic ones feature a pouch that can be heated up in the microwave. Some high-tech options utilize gentle, time-controlled heaters powered by USB cables. There are lots of great options to fit many needs.

As mentioned above, cooler environments are better for quality sleep. If you’re planning on wearing a warm sleep mask to bed, make sure the room is cool enough to maintain deeper sleep. You should be comfortably cool under your covers, but not cold.

Warming Sleep Masks

Headphone Sleep Masks

Many people find that white noise helps improve sleep quality. If sleep masks were a jab to the face, white noise would be the right hook that knocks you right out. This one-two punch is perfected in the headphone-sleep-mask combo.

Headphone sleep masks feature little speakers over the ears, so you can play white noise or your favorite music to help fall asleep.

They usually use Bluetooth, so you don’t have to worry about getting tangled up in any cords. Most masks have a battery that will last all night, so you don’t have to worry about your soothing soundscape cutting out on you mid-snooze either.

And since headphone sleep masks are fairly premium devices, their build quality is usually quite nice. It’s not hard to find a broad, plush mask in your preferred material. In addition, many masks allow you to pull out the electronic components so you can wash the mask as needed.

Sleep Masks with Headphones

If you want to block out sound but don’t want a sleep mask and headphone combo, you can take a look at our guides on the best earplugs for sleep and the best ear muffs for sleep.

Both guides also explain the science behind the importance of reducing loud noises while sleeping.