Researchers found that wearing an eye mask to block out ambient light at night can improve alertness, memory, and mental health
Here’s some good news for all my fellow blackout curtain and eye mask lovers: a new study found that if you sleep with an eye mask on, it may contribute to some serious mental health benefits. Lounge away in total darkness, my friends.
Researchers from the U.K., Italy, and the U.S. tracked 122 study participants over two experiments to see how ambient light affected their sleep and other health factors. What they found is that blocking out ambient light while sleeping—especially by wearing an eye mask—improved alertness and memory for their study subjects.
“Ambient light can influence sleep structure and timing,” the researchers wrote. “We explored how wearing an eye mask to block light during overnight sleep impacts memory and alertness, changes that could benefit everyday tasks like studying or driving.”
In the first experiment, 89 adults aged 18 to 35 were asked to spend a week sleeping with an eye mask, followed by a week without it. Lab tests performed on the last two days of each week showed that the study participants did better in cognitive tests (like word-pair association, reaction time, and recall tests) during the week that they wore the masks.
For the second experiment, 33 adults aged 18 to 35 wore eye masks while they slept—as well as a wearable headband that measured their brain activity. Researchers had them wear intact eye masks that blocked light one night, followed by an eye mask with holes in it (to make sure they could account for any discomfort caused by the mask itself in their results). Once again, tests showed that sleeping with an eye mask led to cognitive benefits.
“This suggests wearing an eye mask during sleep is an effective, economical, and non-invasive behavior that could benefit cognitive function and lead to measurable impacts on everyday life,” the researchers wrote.
We all know how important sleep is to our overall well-being. While wearing an eye mask might not be the ideal solution for everyone, there’s a bigger takeaway from this study: creating as quiet and restful an environment as possible is ideal for getting good sleep and being our best selves.