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When you think of sleep masks, perhaps you envision a lady of leisure, lounging in bed with her Pomeranian, a sleep mask pushed upon her forehead, and a martini in hand. (No? Just us?) Or perhaps you think of the frequent flyers slipping one on as soon as the cabin door closes. And while yes, they’re fitting in both of those scenarios, it may also be worth making one part of your regular bedtime protocol. Popping on one of these masks can help improve the quality and quantity of your ZZZs in several different ways.
First of all, covering your eyes forces you, quite literally, to stop the incessant phone scrolling that always seems like such a great pre-bedtime activity—spoiler alert, it’s not—giving both your eyes and mind a much-needed break. Similarly, a sleep mask is a great choice for blocking out any kind of ambient lighting; because our brains equate darkness with sleep, this can be a game-changer for less-than-stellar sleepers.
“As well as being incredibly relaxing and soothing, they force us to completely unplug from our hectic lifestyles and can be used to conquer stress, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, headaches, and tired, dry eyes,” explains Harriet Inglis, founder of Spacemasks.
Sold? Slip-on any one of the best sleep masks below and thank us later.
Best Overall: Slip Silk Sleep Mask
The beloved pillowcase from this brand may get most of the attention, but the eye mask is equally worthy of some time in the spotlight. Both are made of the same silk: mulberry, which, unlike cotton, doesn’t absorb moisture and glides smoothly across skin and lashes without tugging. According to cosmetic chemist Ginger King, this type of silk is so smooth, it will not leave any marks on the face, unlike other fabrics that may cause sleep marks. "It is the inherited nature of materials. It is also great for hair to avoid any friction and caused tangles of sleepy head hair," she says.
The band is made from the same silk, too, so there’s no need to stress about it snagging and creating major bedhead and knots while you snooze. Available in 11 colors and prints, coordinate your pick with your favorite PJs or bedding.
Best Budget: Alaska Bear Natural Silk Sleep Mask
You truly can’t go wrong with this affordable pick. Simple and straightforward, it’s also made of mulberry silk and has an easy-to-adjust band. It also comes in a wide array of 30 different colors and fun prints (options, people, options). It’s no surprise it’s one of the best-selling eye masks on Amazon, pulling in tons of positive ratings.
Best for Side Sleepers: Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask
Not only does this completely block out light with a unique design that covers even those tiny gaps around the bridge of your nose, but it also has a winged triangle on each side. This both keeps the mask in place—even if you’re not sleeping on your back—and alleviates any pressure or discomfort while sleeping on your side.
Best Cooling: Earth Therapeutics Gel Bead Sleep Mask
This mask is kind of like applying cucumbers to your eyes but better (and less messy). The cooling sensation can't be beaten after a long day of staring at your computer or whenever your eyes feel puffy and swollen. Chill it in the refrigerator for an hour or pop in the freezer for five to 10 minutes; while gel beads will get nice and cool, the inner side is covered in soft fleece, so the mask won’t feel too chilly against your skin.
Connecticut-based board-certified dermatologist Mona Gohara says that cooling the under-eye area is a great way to de-puff. "Cold gels constrict the vessels so it’s bye-bye bags," she explained. "Fluid isn’t allowed into the skin when vessels close, so it's a great way to calm any inflamed skin."
Best Cotton: Lunya Washable Silk Sleep Mask
This mask—featuring supima cotton—is machine washable, ideal when eye cream or makeup residue gunk up the mask. We especially like that the mask is thick and padded with a wide strap that prevents hair creases and also helps muffle noise. Bonus points for the four pretty hues.
Best Weighted: Gravity Weighted Sleep Mask
Just like weighted blankets may help promote relaxation and better sleep, the same principle applies when it comes to an eye mask. This one evenly distributes about 1 pound of weight against relaxation pressure points in ultra-soft, micro-plush fabric. If you thought a standard sleeping mask was relaxing, just wait until you try this one.
Best Innovation: Sound Oasis Glo to Sleep Therapy Mask
Hold this up to a light source for about 30 seconds before wearing it. Keep your eyes open once you slip it on (it doesn’t sit directly on your eyes) and stare at the soft blue lights inside the mask. This form of light therapy is meant to help boost the alpha brain waves that help calm your mind and body. You can also make the experience even more relaxing by downloading an accompanying sound mediation on your phone to listen to while masking.
Best Luxury: Derek Rose Finley Cashmere Eye Mask
There’s truly nothing more decadent than cashmere, particularly when you’re talking about a cashmere sleep mask. This uses Lora Piana cashmere (some of the best out there) and features gentle padding for the ultimate comfort and coziness. Jet-setters will appreciate that it comes with a silk carrying pouch, too.
Best Blackout: Mindfold Blackout Sleeping Mask
With foam padding and cut-outs inside, this mask may look a little strange, but the cut-outs let you open your eyes completely while still being in complete and total darkness. Think of it like blackout curtains but cheaper and easier. An added boon: Since the mask doesn’t touch your eyes, it’s a good pick for anyone sporting lash extensions that can't get smushed.
Best Disposable: Spacemasks Self-Heating Eye Mask
Not only are these one-time-use masks very practical (you get five in a box, making them an exceptional choice to dole out at a bachelorette party or girls trip), they have the unique feature of warming up as soon as you open them. Iron powder warms up the self-heating masks once they're opened, and they promise to help to relieve tension and tired eyes. Comfortable ear loops help keep it in place.
Best Anti-Aging: Illuminage Skin Rejuvenating Eye Mask
"Copper is a known skin-loving mineral, with the ability to boost cell renewal and deliver some serious anti-aging benefits," says King. Here, copper ions are infused into the fabric, so that this mask can almost take the place of your eye cream. Seriously, wear it nightly for glowing skin in just two weeks and fewer lines and wrinkles in four weeks. Beauty sleep indeed.
Best Eco-Friendly: Half Asleep Ruffle Sleep Mask
With sustainably sourced fibers and packaging and dyed using only plant-based pigments, this mask is a top choice for the conscious consumer. The brand also donates a percentage of sales to organizations that help the homeless and plants a tree for every item purchased as well. Not to mention, the ruffled edging and band are just super stinking cute.
We're giving top honors to Slip Silk Sleep Mask (view at Sephora). It's made out of mulberry silk, so it won't absorb any moisture and will keep your lashes and hair free of any damage while you sleep. Looking to really amp up your beauty sleep? Try the Illuminage Skin Rejuvenating Eye Mask (view at SkinStore). Copper is infused into the fabric to help boost cell renewal and deliver anti-aging benefits in just four weeks.
What to Look for in a Sleep Mask
The best sleep mask will be comfortable to wear and won't irritate your skin and hair. Sleep masks are usually made from silk or cotton. Silk is a great option not only because it feels great but also because it won't collect moisture (which could soak up your nighttime skincare or cause acne), tug at your skin (which could cause wrinkles), or tangle up your hair (which could cause breakage).
Your sleep mask should slip on and off easily, but it should also fit you well enough that it doesn't slide around while you sleep. Most sleeping masks come in a one-size option, so make sure it's neither too tight nor too loose.
Beyond blocking out light, there are some sleep masks that can be heated or cooled to help relieve tension and soothe the eyes. Others are weighted to help relax pressure points. Some sleeping masks help fight off wrinkles, while others use light therapy to help calm your mind and body. You can even find sleeping masks that cover your ears to filter out sound. How advanced you want your sleeping mask to be is entirely up to you.
Do sleep masks really work?
In short, yes. Since sleep masks help block out distractions (namely our phone and other sources of lighting), you'll be able to fall asleep faster and sleep better. Better sleep can lead to a slew of health benefits like improved focus, mood, memory, and more.