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Every night, as I reach that blissful moment when I strap on my sleep mask and shut out the world, it feels like a true “Hello darkness my old friend” moment. (Although maybe not with the angst Simon & Garfunkel intended but in a literal sense.)
It’s the number one thing that transitions me from wakefulness to sleep mode, and I am nothing if not someone who loves to sleep.
It’s so essential to my sleep routine that I often wonder how anyone sleeps without an eye mask, until I remember that I didn’t own one until about four years ago. I also had someone once tell me that when they used a sleep mask they would wake up with panic attacks, so clearly they’re not right for everyone.
However, since the moment I got one, an eye mask has been a constant presence on my bedside table and in my travel bag. That said, I definitely cycled through many different types of sleep masks until I found the ones that work best for me.
Why wear an eye mask for sleep?
According to Rebecca Robbins, an associate scientist at Brigham and Women's Hospital and instructor at Harvard Medical School, darkness is an important component of good sleep hygiene.
“Our eyelids are the thinnest pieces of skin on our body,” Robbins said. “Believe it or not, even a small light coming from a cable box can be enough to get into the eyelid and actually disrupt our sleep.”
If you’re sleeping in an environment where you’re not able to have that fully dark space and you’re experiencing sleep difficulties, she recommends trying an eye mask at the very least to rule out light as the issue.
A 2021 report from the Journal of Advanced Nursing evaluated the sleep quality of people in the ICU, an environment of beeping machines and annoying lights that can prevent much-needed rest. The researchers included nearly 800 patients from 13 different studies and found eye masks improved sleep quality. Earplugs plus eye masks were even better.
A 2010 study of 14 ICU patients published in the journal Critical Care found that the use of earplugs and eye masks resulted in more REM (rapid eye movement, which signals a deeper sleep stage) time, shorter REM latency (the time it takes to reach the first REM sleep stage), less arousal, and elevated melatonin levels.
While you may not be spending much time in the ICU (hopefully), there are many situations in which complete darkness is not easy to achieve. Maybe you’re a renter and you don’t want to invest in blackout curtains, or your specific bedroom windows don’t allow for full shade coverage.
Robbins specifically mentioned how useful eye masks can be for travel, considering the fact that most travel methods and hotels (even the nice ones) don’t focus on creating quiet and dark sleeping conditions.
How to choose a sleep mask
When it comes to sleep, comfort is key, as Robbins emphasized for all areas of sleep hygiene. Ideally, you would be in a quiet, dark, and cool room and feel as cozy as possible. Since being cozy looks different for everyone, it’s important to consider how you get your best sleep when choosing an eye mask.
If you sleep on your back and have trouble turning off your brain before bed, you could be a good candidate for a weighted eye mask, which is a heavier mask that’s like a weighted blanket for your face.
If you’re a side sleeper, however, a weighted eye mask may slip off your face and probably isn’t the best choice. If you appreciate silence at bedtime but don’t love earplugs, you can try a mask that also claims to be noise reducing, because that’s a thing.
Regardless of your preferred conditions, Robbins suggests testing out products whenever possible and mimicking your sleep position when you do so. For example, those who spend the most time sleeping on their stomach should try out an eye mask while lying on their stomach to make sure that it’s comfortable and stays put.
You may not always be able to try before you buy, so check the return policy to see if it’s possible to send one back or exchange it. All of the eye masks we recommend come with high praise and may do the trick if you buy the one that’s right for your sleep style.
After experimenting with many a mask, this is the one I eventually landed on and use to this day. It’s not perfect, but it’s comfortable and blocks out every speck of light to create my ideal sleep environment (a cold, dark cave). The soft, deep eye cups don’t put any pressure on your lids and they individually Velcro onto the strap, meaning that not only are they adjustable to your exact eye position, but you can also swap them out with other Manta sleep cups. This past summer, I got the cooling eye cups filled with ceramic beads and kept them in my freezer to pop on before bed for a lovely, slightly weighted, perfectly dark, and cool sleep. I also convinced myself that the cooling effect helped my eye puffiness, but I have no proof of that.
Promising review: “Recommended by other emergency room doctors, this sleep mask is wonderful for those of us who do shift work. It is so comfortable and completely customizable. It blocks out ALL light. My only regret is not buying this sooner.” —Frogs
What else to consider: Some reviewers noted that this mask did in fact let light in for them, especially when they shifted to their side. Based on my experience, that’s likely because it wasn’t secured tightly enough. You definitely have to strap it on as snug as possible in order for it to stay put throughout tossing and turning in the night, and since it can only get so tight, it may not be best if you have a smaller head.
Best for: anyone who wants a soft and cozy mask with maximum blackout and zero pressure on the eyes.
You can buy the Manta Sleep Mask from Amazon for around $35.
This was actually the first eye mask I ever bought, inspired by my interest in trying a weighted eye mask to help relieve anxiety, since that tends to be my greatest barrier to sleep. It’s made from 100% silk and filled with pouches of lavender and flaxseeds for added weight with a soothing scent. The elastic band is adjustable, so you can make it as large or small as you need depending on your head size and preferred tightness. You can also adjust the scent and weight to your liking. I still keep this one in my opposite bedside table for guests.
Promising review: “This is such a lovely product. You could give it as a gift. It really blocks out the light. The strap keeps it on even if your face is tilted so you can lay more comfortably, and the strap is small, light, and adjustable and does not cause me discomfort. Also, the mask is customizable. The manufacturer sends extra flaxseed and lavender so you can add more if you wish to increase the weight and/or scent. It's absolutely lovely.” —Elle W.
What else to consider: The main reason I moved on from this mask was purely due to the fact that I’m primarily a stomach/side sleeper and the weight caused it to slide off my face in those positions, which isn’t ideal if you want complete darkness at all times. Something else to note that wasn’t necessarily a deterrent for me is that the silk changed color, likely from my skincare products or natural face oils. (I wash my face before bed religiously so no, it’s not dirty.) This discoloration persisted despite repeated runs through the washing machine, but you can probably avoid that if you get a darker color.
Best for: back sleepers who may benefit from some light pressure and aromatherapy at bedtime, or yogis who want a little extra relaxation during savasana.
You can buy the Asutra Silk Eye Pillow from Amazon for around $22.
If you’re in the market for a classic, lightweight, comfortable, and contoured sleep mask, Nidra is the GOAT. It’s affordable yet quality you can trust, and the design makes it perfect to throw into any travel bag and use on the go. The deeply molded cups curve away from the eyes to avoid compressing your eyes or eyelashes but still promise to block out all light and visual stimuli that could prevent you from falling asleep.
Promising review: “This is the go-to sleep mask in our household. We've tried a number of other ones, but inevitably come back to this “Nidra” one. We have gone through quite a few of them over the last 5-6 years, so have a good idea of lifetime and what to expect from this product (see attached images). Overall, fantastic product, has been life changing. Great for achieving a true blackout sleep experience.” —coffeefiend
What else to consider: The adjustable strap is a bit of a tense elastic with a Velcro closure, which always presents the possibility of tightness and hair snags or dents. Some reviewers also noted that it did not hold up well after months of regular use.
Best for: an occasional-use mask that’s particularly lightweight, effective and ideal for travel.
You can buy the Nidra Contoured Sleep Mask from Amazon for around $15.
Lunya kills the game when it comes to fashionable sleep accessories. They’re known specifically for their washable silk pajamas, which is the same material used for this soft sleep mask. The silk is supposed to be naturally moisturizing and help reduce the appearance of fatigue and dark circles, while the wide elasticized band prevents hair creases and reduces noise (since it can cover your ears). It’s quite lightweight, but they also make a weighted version if you’d prefer some pressure, though that one is hand wash only and almost twice the price.
Promising review: “The best sleep mask I’ve had and I have tried a few! It’s full coverage means that it seems dark even when it’s not, it stays on all night, it is comfortable and the silk is so soft. I already had this mask and bought a second one so that I wouldn't have to go a night without it while it was drying after being washed! Love it.” —Kim L., via Lunya
What else to consider: This mask definitely comes at a higher price point, which is important to note depending on how much you want to invest in this kind of product. It’s also not as adjustable as some other masks, so if your head is particularly big or small, there’s a chance it won’t fit securely.
Best for: beauty sleep (literally) with a noise-reducing component.
You can buy the Lunya Washable Silk Sleep Mask from Lunya for around $48.
OK, so I also own this sleep mask. I understand that I have a problem, but they all serve a different purpose. The Dream Sleeper came highly recommended from my sister-in-law, who didn’t love her Manta because it slid down her face too much throughout the night. I still like my Manta better since I’ve come to prefer the contour, but since this one is lighter, more portable, and still quite comfy, it’s become my travel mask. It’s made from a washable and breathable silky satin that feels nice on my face, with extra wide straps to provide some noise reduction as well (and minimize hair denting).
Promising review: “I LOVE this mask! I confess, it’s a bit too much coverage for peak summer heat, but comfort and coverage is still PERFECT! The amount of coverage creating a warming effect is exactly what I need for the colder months of autumn, winter, and early spring. I’m very pleased with this purchase. BTW, the fabric is super soft against my skin, and the entire mask is incredibly easy to just wrap around my head and get it to stay.” —P. Lyn Matshall
What else to consider: Though his mask claims to fit all heads, the closure is not very elastic so it’s best for medium or average head sizes, similar to the Lunya option above. I only use it occasionally so I can’t speak to any wear and tear from nightly use, but I have noticed some subtle discoloration in the interior silk. Reviewers also mentioned that the wide face-hugging made them overheat.
Best for: a less expensive (though not exactly cheap) dupe for the Lunya washable silk sleep mask that still gets the job done.
You can buy the Dream Sleeper Hypoallergenic Sleep Mask from Amazon for around $33.
Another weighted eye mask that has intrigued me for a while is this uniquely shaped option by Nodpod. It features four equally weighted pods that contour to your face to help soothe migraines, relieve stress or ease you into sleep. I’m particularly drawn to the jersey fabric that lines the interior, which I know to be one of the softest fabrics on the planet, and the microfiber fleece exterior doesn’t hurt either. The highlight of this mask is the gentle, evenly distributed pressure, but that’s partially possible due to the fact that it rests on your face rather than straps on tightly with an elastic closure. There is, however, a small buttonhole to pull it through behind your head.
Promising review: “Everything about this eye mask is perfect! Not too heavy but definitely meditative, doesn’t use elastic which I always struggled to sleep with, washable (read the instructions though)… seriously such a good buy. Got one for my mom, too - she loves it! Highly recommend!!” —ilanab, via Nodpod
What else to consider: The nature of the closure means that this eye mask is not going to have a snug fit and will likely shift through the night unless you sleep like a mummy.
Best for: strictly back sleepers, or those interested more in pre-sleep meditation or occasional stress relief.
You can buy the Nodpod Weighted Eye Mask from Anthropologie for around $34.
Given the significantly lower price, you’d never guess that this was such a good-quality eye mask, but reviewers are mostly in agreement that it’s pretty great. It promises total darkness without that contoured design thanks to the soft ridge at the bottom intended to block out any leaking light. The adjustable elastic band has a click-in closure, as opposed to Velcro, to avoid any snagging, and the plush, lightweight fabric is cozy yet breathable.
Promising review: “I love this eye mask! It does not let light through even if it is the middle of the day or all the lights on in the room. I can finally sleep or nap whenever and not be bothered by others who are not sleeping while I am. It has a Velcro strap in the back and my hair has never gotten caught in it. Very soft and comfortable to sleep in! I sleep only on my side and have no issues with it falling off or light seeping in.” —nmcf
What else to consider: A couple reviewers said that the elastic wears over time, so keep in mind that it could become too loose to stay secure at some point. However, it’s so affordable that I don’t think long-term wear and tear should be a deterrent. If you love it, just buy another when its time is up.
Best for: those seeking a lightweight, plush and affordable sleep mask that actually blocks out light.
You can buy the Bewell Eye Mask from Amazon for around $8.
Another company that dominates the sleep space, Casper now offers an eye mask to help you sleep even more comfortably while submerged in their mattresses, pillows, and sheets. It has that same thick-banded design that’s supposed to help block out both light and some noise while keeping your hair crease-free. It’s made with soft, stretchy, and breathable fabric to help you stay cozy and cool. The front is more cushioned but there’s no added weight, so it shouldn’t put much pressure on your eyes. It is one of their newest products, so there aren’t any reviews yet, but knowing the Casper quality it should be safe to test out. You can also probably try one on at any Casper showroom.
What else to consider: This is a one-size-fits-all sleep mask with no adjustable closure, so the stretch is your only shot at a proper fit. That means it could be a bit tight on some heads and too loose on others.
Best for: someone looking to make more of a serious, soft cotton investment in their sleep with a multifunctional eye mask.
You can buy the Casper Snoozewear Sleep Mask from Casper for around $49.
Slip has a fairly particular niche — they only make silk products that somehow touch your head (face and/or hair). The company’s whole philosophy is based on the fact that cotton absorbs moisture and can dry out the skin, so it says silk is really the most gentle and delicate way to go. The pull-on sleep masks look pretty classic, with a stretchy elastic band and basic eye covering. The company says the mask reduces friction against skin to avoid creasing in the delicate area around your eyes. They also come in tons of cute colors and patterns if you’re looking to make an aesthetic statement with your eye mask.
Promising review: “After hesitantly spending $50 on this, I am happy to say that it is definitely worth the money! It comes beautifully packaged (great if you’re gifting) and it is very high quality material and construction. It is super comfortable to wear while sleeping and it doesn’t shift around or fall off at night - as a bit of a restless sleeper that is a big plus. I love the way it feels on, it almost has a slight cooling effect on your eyes. After trying this I am much more sold on the whole silk-pillowcase thing and I will be trying that next.” —Rachel I.
What else to consider: Again, this one isn’t adjustable, so you’re banking on the fact that the elastic will keep it just the right amount of snug on your head. It’s also possible that the thinner band could create a bit of a crease in hair if it’s too tight.
Best for: those who appreciate aesthetics in any product and want a silky smooth sleep mask that won’t absorb their expensive face creams.
You can buy the Slip Silk Sleep Mask from Amazon for around $50.
If you’re looking for something with tons of reviews, the vast majority of which are quite positive, this is the eye mask for you. Made from layers of soft cotton, non-woven fabrics, and elastic sponge to be as cozy as possible while still breathable, the triangle wing design promises to stay put while you sleep and keep your eyes feeling free and comfortable. However, it still claims to block out all light with an adjustable cartilage nose piece that bends to your face. The elastic band is adjustable as well, so it should fit any head size.
Promising review: “This eye mask is fantastic! I love that it’s cotton, so it's very comfortable and breathable. The back strap adjusts to fit your head so it stays put when you roll around at night, and there’s a soft wire in the nose piece so that the mask can adjust to the shape of your nose to provide maximum blackout coverage. You can’t beat the price for this eye mask - great quality and super comfy.” —Paula
What else to consider: Of course, not all reviewers were satisfied. Some mentioned that the nose piece still let in a sliver of light or that they had to readjust it throughout the night, but different faces and sleep patterns may require different features. Most still found it to be effective and for under $10, it’s worth a shot.
Best for: anyone in the market for a fairly universal and affordable first sleep mask to test out.
You can buy the Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask from Amazon for around $10.
If you hadn’t already guessed, silk is a very popular material for sleep products, and for good reason. It’s soft, lightweight, helps maintain a neutral temperature, feels luxurious, and is good for your skin, so you can’t really go wrong with silk eye masks that actually block out light. This option from Parachute, which makes just about everything you could need for a good night’s sleep, looks just like the Asutra mask but without the weight. It’s naturally hypoallergenic with an adjustable elastic band and comes with a matching silk pouch to use when you travel.
Promising review: “Love the adjustability and the fabric. Not too hot, sits cool on the face and the dark sexy color blocks out the light well. This is the best mask I have found.” —Anna G., via Parachute
What else to consider: You can machine wash this silk sleep mask, though the company recommends putting it in a mesh intimates bag if you choose to do so. Otherwise, Parachute advises handwashing. There also aren’t tons of reviews, but since Parachute has physical retail stores, you may be able to find it in person and test it out before buying.
Best for: a basic, no-frills yet still luxurious sleep mask experience.
You can buy the Parachute Silk Eye Mask from Parachute for around $39.