How Do Sleep Masks Work?
Sleep masks are completely opaque, and designed to fit snugly over both eyes. They are typically made from one or more of the following materials:

Natural fibers, such as cotton and silk. These fabrics are light, breathable, and hypoallergenic, as well as machine washable. One notable downside of sleep masks made of natural fibers: they tend to degrade quickly after repeated washing cycles.
Synthetic fibers, such as polyester and silk. Synthetic fabrics are not as breathable as natural fibers, but they are usually just as soft and lightweight — and like sleep masks made of cotton and silk, those made of polyester or satin typically wear out over time.
Foam materials, such as polyfoam. Foam sleep masks are designed to conform to the wearer’s face; this slight pressure can alleviate pain and pressure in people with certain conditions, such as chronic migraines or sinus problems. Foam sleep masks often come with recessed eye cavities, which prevent the eyes from coming in direct contact with the mask; this can reduce irritation and discomfort.
Sleep masks are usually designed with elastic bands that fit over the head for added comfort, and some feature side vents to improve air circulation. Sleep masks are designed to be worn with earplugs, and some models come with earplugs.

Most sleep masks sold today can block 90% to 99% of outside light. By blocking light, sleep masks aid with sleep in three ways:

Improved melatonin levels: Melatonin is a natural hormone helps control the circadian sleep cycle in humans. Melatonin is produced during periods of darkness; the hormone creates feelings of drowsiness that make it easier to fall and remain asleep. Daylight and artificial light slow the melatonin production process, as does excessive use of ‘blue light-emitting devices’ (such as smartphones, tablets, and televisions) before bedtime.

Sleep masks can effectively regulate melatonin production for people who are trying to sleep during periods of daylight. These include individuals who work at night, as well as those who are attempting to sleep under unusual circumstances (while flying, for instance) or reset their sleep cycle after traveling through different time zones.

Sleep restoration: A sufficient amount of deep REM sleep each night can improve one’s focus and alleviate stress the following day, as well as lower the risk of accidents at work or on the road. An insufficient amount of deep REM sleep can have the opposite effect, leaving people feeling groggy and unable to concentrate. Improved sleep cycles can benefit people who are recovering from an illness or injury, as well.

Sleep masks promote more restorative sleep by regulating melatonin production and helping people remain asleep throughout the night.

Pressure relief: By molding to the face and applying light weight and pressure to the head and nose, some sleep masks may be able to alleviate discomfort in people who experience migraines, tension headaches, or sinus problems. Generally, pain and pressure relief can have a positive effect on both sleep onset and sleep maintenance.
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