Easy Fix Improves Sleep, Memory, Alertness

How you dress can impact your day. Wearing a simple strip of material to bed may turn your day around! Wearing an eye mask to block light in bed can improve cognitive function the next day. It aids episodic memory encoding and alertness.

Older sleep studies have found that light disrupts sleep. And, they have shown that proper sleep is essential for mental and physical health. This new research found that blocking out light is even more beneficial than previously realized.

Study author Viviana Greco was shocked upon moving to Wales from Italy that the sun rose at 4 am, but the windows didn’t have in her home didn’t have a good way to block light. “Most houses in Cardiff area have only curtains and even blackout curtains are not enough to provide complete darkness… As sleep scientists, we understand the importance of getting enough sleep, and waking up at 4 am every day was not ideal. We became then curious to know whether wearing an eye mask overnight to block ambient light could be an easy solution.”

Studies in the past have found that eye masks improve sleep in hospitals. But no one has ever looked at their benefits when used at home. She and her colleagues performed two experiments. The first tests had people sleep normally at home for five nights and then use a mask for two nights at home. The study participants learned word associations faster, had better motor skills, were more alert and had better attention spans when they used the masks. The second test had people wear masks that either blocked light or didn’t block light. They wore EEG headbands to monitor their sleep. Their results were the same as the people in the first study — the light-blocking masks improved their mental skills. Strangely, everyone in the study self-reported getting the same quality and amount of sleep. People exposed to light didn’t realize their sleep was less restful, but their EEG results showed otherwise.

The researchers wrote, “Given the current climate of life-hacking, sleep monitoring and cognitive enhancers, our findings suggest the eye mask as a simple, economical and noninvasive way to get more out of a night of sleep.”

It’s true. Every lifestyle tip you read nowadays is a “hack.” But this genuinely is a small change you can make to improve your day for very little money with barely any impact on your life. Eye masks aren’t what they used to be; they aren’t tight and uncomfortable. You can get masks today that are contoured, ultra-thin and designed for side sleepers for $10. Gone are the days of pinching elastic that got caught in your hair. Unlike investing in new blinds or curtains, this is a fast, simple trick that can vastly improve the quality of your sleep!    

Banner image: Marcus Aurelius via Pexels

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