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Improve Alertness and Memory by Using This Surprisingly Cheap Bedroom Accessory

A sleep mask can block light while you sleep, but new studies show its benefits don't stop there.

A woman stretching in bed in the morning with a sleep mask
A sleep mask blocks out ambient light, giving you better sleep and more alertness in the morning.
Charday Penn/Getty Images

Sleep masks are a popular bedtime accessory that helps block light and promote a better sleep. However, new studies have shown that the benefits of a sleep mask don't end when you take off the mask in the morning. Turns out, wearing a sleep mask to bed can boost brain function, including alertness, memory and reaction times. Since light plays such a crucial role in your sleep-wake cycle, blocking it out can promote better sleep, and in turn, improved cognitive function. 

Let's talk about the benefits of a sleep mask, and how you can incorporate one into your bedtime routine for a nice mental boost and better rest. 

For more help getting better sleep, especially with the arrival of Daylight Saving Time, learn how to reset your body after losing an hour of sleep and the perfect bedtime routine for better rest.

Sleep masks can promote better brain function 

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In a recent study, researchers conducted two experiments to determine how blocking out ambient light might influence memory and reaction time. 

The first experiment involved 94 participants aged 18 to 35. For a week, they wore an eye mask every night while they slept. The following week, they slept without a mask to block out the light. Results showed that their alertness, memory and information retention improved after wearing the mask. 

In the second experiment, 35 participants aged 18 to 35 wore a sleep tracker to bed that monitored sleep quality. They wore a mask for two nights and went maskless for two. The experiment found that when wearing the mask, participants spent more time in deep sleep and had improved memory and information processing. 

The relationship between light and sleep

Wearing a sleep mask to bed increases REM slow-wave sleep and boosts melatonin levels by blocking out light, including ambient light that you didn't even know was disrupting your sleep, like an outdoor street light shining through your window. 

Disruptions in sleep, such as light pollution, can reduce time spent in deep sleep, which can negatively impact cognitive functions like memory, knowledge retention and alertness. The recent sleep mask study provides further insight about the role light exposure plays in regulating our sleep-wake cycle.

Sleep masks are available for $5 to $10 at places like Amazon or the local CVS, meaning folks on any budget can get access to better sleep. 

More ways to block out ambient light

Here are some additional ways to make your room into the perfect dark haven for sleep:

  • Get some blackout curtains.
  • Unplug computers and monitors that omit a subtle but impactful glow.
  • Turn off any hallway lights that could glow through the slot beneath a door.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.