60 votes

An uncompromising guide to sleep masks (for side-sleepers)

34 comments

  1. [5]
    CannibalisticApple
    (edited )
    Link
    Impressive to me to see the sheer effort put into reviewing every mask. I love articles that go into excruciating detail to review something so mundane and simple. I'm a stomach sleeper and use a...

    Impressive to me to see the sheer effort put into reviewing every mask. I love articles that go into excruciating detail to review something so mundane and simple. I'm a stomach sleeper and use a sleeping mask too, and I fully agree with the importance of the straps. I had a mask that had wide straps with "hard" edges and velcro, and those were just too wide. It was too easy for it to dig into my ear.

    For me personally, I use a mask I got as part of a "We're going to Costa Rica!!" basket my parents bought me for Christmas. Definitely not as engineered as some of these, which... Might be part of why it's so good. No ridges or molded shape, just a nice, silky fabric and a strap with a sliding buckle that's wrapped in a kinda scrunchy fabric. It's just the right weight that it doesn't feel heavy, but still puts pressure on my eyes.

    Though question for others: is opening your eyes in a sleep mask something you do a lot? The review keeps mentioning the ability to do that as a pro, and that's just surprising to me because... Well, the purpose is to sleep, and most people sleep with their eyes closed. I feel like if a mask gave me the space to comfortably open my eyes like you describe, it would take longer for me to fall asleep.

    19 votes
    1. [2]
      chromakode
      Link Parent
      OP here! This is the way! Personally, I find it more comfortable to not have fabric pressing on my eyelids / eyelashes. I also find it nice to be able to open my eyes in a bubble of perfect...

      OP here!

      No ridges or molded shape, just a nice, silky fabric and a strap with a sliding buckle that's wrapped in a kinda scrunchy fabric.

      This is the way!

      Though question for others: is opening your eyes in a sleep mask something you do a lot?

      Personally, I find it more comfortable to not have fabric pressing on my eyelids / eyelashes. I also find it nice to be able to open my eyes in a bubble of perfect darkness no matter the environment. This is something the Manta mask is amazing at, alas for side sleepers. For me, sometimes it's easier to fall asleep if my eyes have been open for a few minutes, like I'm burning off my last bit of waking energy.

      Also, I've known some folks prone to sties, so keeping eyelids clean and dry can be an important feature to look for.

      It's interesting to me that you describe putting pressure on your eyes as a feature! Does this help you to fall asleep?

      12 votes
      1. CannibalisticApple
        Link Parent
        I've read that holding your eyes open behind a sleeping mask can help people fall asleep, so that makes sense. I think my eyes would just want to stay open though, which ties into your question...

        I've read that holding your eyes open behind a sleeping mask can help people fall asleep, so that makes sense. I think my eyes would just want to stay open though, which ties into your question about pressure. I find just the bit of physical pressure against my eyes helps encourage them to stay closed. Otherwise my eyes tend to naturally try to open.

        It's especially helpful if I wake up in the middle of the night. Once I open my eyes I'm usually up for good, so the mask's pressure keeping my eyes shut gives me a higher chance of falling back asleep.

        There's definitely a balance though. Back in high school I had a super plush mask that felt heavy and clunky. It did the job, but sometimes it felt like my eyes needed air. It took me a while to replace it though because others I'd see at stores looked too thin or had bad-looking straps. The current one is just right though.

        This talk is making me realize I should probably consider getting another one of this one as a backup since it's such a good fit. For the record, this is (probably) the specific one I have. The pattern is at least, they seem to have a lot of super-similar listings with long titles listing all the features so can't tell if there are any meaningful differences between them all. I remember mine came with inserts, but I've never felt a need to try them.

        3 votes
    2. knocklessmonster
      Link Parent
      My eyes will get sore if I hold them closed trying to sleep. I actually got a Manta mask as I wanted something to keep pressure off my eyes, and I like it because I can just relax in darkness,...

      My eyes will get sore if I hold them closed trying to sleep. I actually got a Manta mask as I wanted something to keep pressure off my eyes, and I like it because I can just relax in darkness, even just taking a midday nap. It helps on those nights I can't knock out quick because I can still be in pitch-black.

      3 votes
    3. TheRTV
      Link Parent
      For me it's somewhere in the middle. I don't want room to open my eyes, but it can't put too much pressure on my eyelids. I started using a sleep mask to help with my eyes drying out in my sleep....

      For me it's somewhere in the middle. I don't want room to open my eyes, but it can't put too much pressure on my eyelids. I started using a sleep mask to help with my eyes drying out in my sleep. Too much pressure causes a red bump on the front of my eyelid (not a stye). But when I loosened it a bit, it worked good with no issue.

      So the straps and nose being adjustable would by an important thing for me. Just so it conforms to my face better.

      2 votes
  2. [3]
    Weldawadyathink
    Link
    I was a little surprised that you disliked the Tempur-Pedic mask so much. I started wearing a mask about a year ago, and went with that one on Reddit’s advice, like you did. The bulky tag is the...

    I was a little surprised that you disliked the Tempur-Pedic mask so much. I started wearing a mask about a year ago, and went with that one on Reddit’s advice, like you did. The bulky tag is the most stupid product decision I have seen, and whoever decided that should be fired and shunned, but otherwise I absolutely love it. You are also right that you have to get it somewhat tight to get a complete blackout seal, but when I wear it loose it gets close enough to not be an issue for me. I love it so much that I have bought 3 separate copies (I lost one on vacation, and I wanted 2 to be able to launder them and still have one to use).

    That being said, I did buy your top pick from your affiliate link to try it out. It’s on sale for $10 right now, so if I like it I might pick up a second. Thanks for making this write up!

    5 votes
    1. [2]
      chromakode
      Link Parent
      No affiliate links here! Aha, I had hoped to hear from some Tempur-Pedic enjoyers -- I have no doubt there's something to it, since so many folks love it. Out of curiosity, what is your sleeping...

      No affiliate links here! Aha, I had hoped to hear from some Tempur-Pedic enjoyers -- I have no doubt there's something to it, since so many folks love it.

      Out of curiosity, what is your sleeping style? Where does the strap sit on your head, does it go behind the ears or higher up?

      4 votes
      1. Weldawadyathink
        Link Parent
        The best mask for me has the strap go directly over my ears, covering them. The back of the strap sits on or directly below the base of my skull, where the bone turns into neck muscle. That gives...

        The best mask for me has the strap go directly over my ears, covering them. The back of the strap sits on or directly below the base of my skull, where the bone turns into neck muscle. That gives me the best light blocking ability. But I really dislike the strap being on top of my ears, so I push it up above my ears, like where you would hold a pencil. This moves the back part of the strap upwards to just below where the skull gets bigger in the back (is that the crown?). Sometimes that pushes the mask up so the cheek pads rest on my lower eyelids. That’s annoying, but with the strap relatively loose it mostly stays down enough to not be problematic. Based on your descriptions, I am guessing this would be more of a dealbreaker for you than it is for me.

        For sleep positions, I don’t think I neatly fit into any one category. I have 3 main positions I swap between freely.

        • On my back (the doctor recommended sleep position), although I let my head fall to the side so my cheek rests on the pillow.
        • The twist. My upper body faces the ceiling and my pelvis and legs twist around, so my pelvis faces the mattress. As before, my cheek and head are resting on the pillow.
        • Face down, but with my neck twisted so my cheek rests on the pillow. Although unlike before, I position my head at the edge of my pillow so my face faces downwards more. Most of my head’s weight is still on my cheek and side of my face, and my face is not obstructed.

        Honestly after typing those out, none of those seem comfortable at all. But for some reason it works for me. In the context of sleep masks, I guess I could be classified as a side sleeper since my face is most often resting on its side.

        I can also say that the Tempur-Pedic mask is the only one I have ever tried (not counting cheapo ones you get from airlines). It’s possible that it is way worse for me than others, but it wasn’t bad enough for me to shop for something else.

        Also if you do something like this again, I would say go for some affiliate links. I know some people look down on them, but I think articles like this are the best scenario for them. This isn’t SEO spam, it’s a good and honest review. This is the type of content I want to support. Since I run adblockers on all my devices, I am happy to use affiliate links to support things like this.

        4 votes
  3. [2]
    Minithra
    Link
    I've only tried two masks before I gave up and accepted I'll just sleep like crap on some occassions... but maybe I'll give it another go, this was very informative reading! My first mask was a...

    I've only tried two masks before I gave up and accepted I'll just sleep like crap on some occassions... but maybe I'll give it another go, this was very informative reading!

    My first mask was a very soft, but also very... small? plain fabric mask with a single around-the-head strap. It didn't block all light, and it did touch my eyelashes. I figured that was a problem, so I got myself one with a molded shape - plenty of space for my eyes, very soft straps that go around the ears, decent light blocking, though it's also relatively small. Except it can't be used when you're a side sleeper, it pushes against the face and it's all wonky. It's now accumulating dust in a drawer. I've had much better use out of putting a tshirt over my head, lol

    As a sidenote, the pictures in the article threw me so much. The slight transparency that happens as the pictures become visible on the screen, only to then vanish entirely when they're in the middle... Gave me spooky feelings

    5 votes
    1. chromakode
      Link Parent
      Haha! Sorry, I didn't mean to spook you. The x-ray photos are intended to show where the mask rides relative to my eyes and nose. When I was coding up the page I felt coupling the transition to...

      Haha! Sorry, I didn't mean to spook you. The x-ray photos are intended to show where the mask rides relative to my eyes and nose. When I was coding up the page I felt coupling the transition to the scroll would add some dynamism to the page 😅

      Big mood re: single strap flat masks and big chonkers molded masks. Us side sleepers have much more limited choices. But that actually makes the search easier in some ways!

      2 votes
  4. [2]
    UniquelyGeneric
    Link
    This post is timely because I recently had a conversation last night with my girlfriend about night masks. Particularly about this one she uses. The defining feature is that it’s a blindfold...

    This post is timely because I recently had a conversation last night with my girlfriend about night masks. Particularly about this one she uses. The defining feature is that it’s a blindfold style, which I think can eliminate some of the light creep-in from the sides when you move around in bed. It also has the eye-cups to reduce pressure so it seems to hit some major points, from your top pick (of which, this is the same brand).

    Chromakode, you tried a variety of sizes of masks and materials, but was there any reason you didn’t consider a blindfold-style? I’d be curious to see how it holds to your evaluation criteria.

    5 votes
    1. chromakode
      Link Parent
      Interesting! I've mainly not tried that kind yet on the principle of less material = more, especially on the front. I'll order one and report back!

      Interesting! I've mainly not tried that kind yet on the principle of less material = more, especially on the front. I'll order one and report back!

      5 votes
  5. [3]
    gco
    Link
    Thanks for posting, a couple of months back I did some research on what eye mask to buy. I ended up settling on a Manta but I'm glad that I didn't purchase it after reading your article (The only...

    Thanks for posting, a couple of months back I did some research on what eye mask to buy. I ended up settling on a Manta but I'm glad that I didn't purchase it after reading your article (The only reason I didn't was because of how expensive it was). I hadn't even considered silk so I'll keep an eye out for your recommendation.

    4 votes
    1. [2]
      chromakode
      Link Parent
      The silk was a surprise to me honestly, I prematurely judged it as a form over function thing. But no, for something pressed against my face for hours, it's well worth it, and not too expensive!

      The silk was a surprise to me honestly, I prematurely judged it as a form over function thing. But no, for something pressed against my face for hours, it's well worth it, and not too expensive!

      3 votes
      1. Adys
        Link Parent
        I got a Manta, and a cheap-ish blackout Chinese thing off Amazon. I more often wear the latter. I’m a back sleeper, so I didn’t have the problems you had with it but the strap is not great quality...

        I got a Manta, and a cheap-ish blackout Chinese thing off Amazon. I more often wear the latter.

        I’m a back sleeper, so I didn’t have the problems you had with it but the strap is not great quality — it’s aged very poorly in a couple of years and is now wavy and cracked.

        The manta is indeed just fancy imo. Well thought out but not worth the price jump. On the other hand, if pressed eyelashes are an issue for you then it solves that.

        2 votes
  6. [5]
    cfabbro
    (edited )
    Link
    I get migraines, so my use of a sleep mask is actually not for sleeping. I use it solely to help with the extreme light sensitivity I often experience while having a migraine. The mask I bought...

    I get migraines, so my use of a sleep mask is actually not for sleeping. I use it solely to help with the extreme light sensitivity I often experience while having a migraine. The mask I bought was super cheap though, and it's kinda shit. It's comfortable and has eye pockets (which I also prefer), but it lets way too much light through around the nose area. And when I am having a really bad migraine, even that tiny bit of light is too much for me to handle.

    Regardless of me not needing a mask to actually sleep, these review are still super helpful though. Even though it didn't work well for you as a side sleeper, I'm going to order myself a Manta Pro since it sounds absolutely perfect for my needs. So thanks for sharing this, @chromakode!

    p.s. The other thing I regularly use is a migraine relief cap, which is a gel-filled head wrap that I store in my fridge to keep it cold. It thankfully is fully black-out already though, but sometimes the cold and pressure around my head helps my migraines, sometimes it makes it worse. So finally having a good total blackout mask option for when the cold/pressure of the wrap doesn't help will be nice.

    3 votes
    1. [4]
      chromakode
      Link Parent
      Damn, I'm sorry to hear you have to deal with that. Yes, the Manta Pro is god tier in this regard. All of the Manta masks probably would suit your purpose well, the pro just takes the design and...

      Damn, I'm sorry to hear you have to deal with that. Yes, the Manta Pro is god tier in this regard. All of the Manta masks probably would suit your purpose well, the pro just takes the design and materials to 11. They also make a cooling version, though the eye cups are modified and I don't have experience with them. I hope you find it useful!

      3 votes
      1. [3]
        cfabbro
        Link Parent
        Ah, thanks for the heads up. In that case, I might check out the regular Manta first then, since the Manta Pro is pretty ridiculously priced up here in Canada. It's $120! O_O

        All of the Manta masks probably would suit your purpose well

        Ah, thanks for the heads up. In that case, I might check out the regular Manta first then, since the Manta Pro is pretty ridiculously priced up here in Canada. It's $120! O_O

        1 vote
        1. [2]
          chromakode
          Link Parent
          I've started testing out another mask suggested by @UniquelyGeneric: https://tildes.net/~health/1heh/an_uncompromising_guide_to_sleep_masks_for_side_sleepers#comment-d41x Just wanted to follow up...

          I've started testing out another mask suggested by @UniquelyGeneric: https://tildes.net/~health/1heh/an_uncompromising_guide_to_sleep_masks_for_side_sleepers#comment-d41x

          Just wanted to follow up that this one also has excellent blackout and could be much cheaper!

          4 votes
          1. cfabbro
            Link Parent
            Ah, thanks again for the heads up. I hadn't ordered the original Manta yet, since it's $52 up here, which is still pretty pricey. And I only get migraines a few times a year, so spending that much...

            Ah, thanks again for the heads up. I hadn't ordered the original Manta yet, since it's $52 up here, which is still pretty pricey. And I only get migraines a few times a year, so spending that much for just a mask is a bit annoying. But the one @UniquelyGeneric recommended is much much more affordable, so I'll give it a try instead!

            2 votes
  7. [4]
    searover
    Link
    Thanks for the reviews, just bought the top pick. Any recommendations on ear plugs?

    Thanks for the reviews, just bought the top pick.

    Any recommendations on ear plugs?

    2 votes
    1. chromakode
      Link Parent
      I think the best earplugs for you depends a lot on ear canal size. For reference, I tend to wear smaller tips on IEMs, but have had no issues with mid sized earplugs. I like these Flents -- made...

      I think the best earplugs for you depends a lot on ear canal size. For reference, I tend to wear smaller tips on IEMs, but have had no issues with mid sized earplugs. I like these Flents -- made in USA, don't smell very bad, and come in a big resealable bag. I've used those for years. Prior to that I used beige Hearos, until those became extremely inconsistent to order online.

      4 votes
    2. imperator
      Link Parent
      I've used those wax ones. Used them when my hotel was right next to the road. Blocked all sound and was fairly comfortable. I never wear them but slept great. https://a.co/d/052gkW5I

      I've used those wax ones. Used them when my hotel was right next to the road. Blocked all sound and was fairly comfortable. I never wear them but slept great.

      https://a.co/d/052gkW5I

      2 votes
    3. V17
      Link Parent
      If standard soft foam earplugs are not enough, try some of the sleeping plugs by Flare Audio. They're more expensive but reusable and they seemed to have found a way to create a more even...

      If standard soft foam earplugs are not enough, try some of the sleeping plugs by Flare Audio. They're more expensive but reusable and they seemed to have found a way to create a more even frequency attenuation - standard soft foam earplugs usually attenuate high frequencies about 10x more than the bass, which in some situations just isn't good enough. Flare claims to have a pretty generous return policy too, but I've never tested it.

      2 votes
  8. [2]
    MimicSquid
    Link
    Something I really appreciated was the subtle fade in the images on scrolling to show where your eyes lay beneath the mask.

    Something I really appreciated was the subtle fade in the images on scrolling to show where your eyes lay beneath the mask.

    2 votes
    1. chromakode
      Link Parent
      It was fun to build, and surprisingly useful! Interesting to me to see how much variation there was in nose coverage, and how deep nose cutouts are risky for light leakage.

      It was fun to build, and surprisingly useful! Interesting to me to see how much variation there was in nose coverage, and how deep nose cutouts are risky for light leakage.

      1 vote
  9. [2]
    sandaltree
    Link
    Fun to see such an in-depth review. My partner actually bought a contoured one and I couldn't really use it as a side-sleeper. Had to get my own cheap one for travel (mostly hotels). I don't...

    Fun to see such an in-depth review. My partner actually bought a contoured one and I couldn't really use it as a side-sleeper. Had to get my own cheap one for travel (mostly hotels).

    I don't really see the value in using them home, however, wouldn't darkening curtains just be more convenient?

    2 votes
    1. chromakode
      Link Parent
      What issues did you run into with the contoured mask? Do you remember what brand it was? Room treatments make sense as a first priority. Even with a mask on it's difficult to sleep in a bright...

      What issues did you run into with the contoured mask? Do you remember what brand it was?

      Room treatments make sense as a first priority. Even with a mask on it's difficult to sleep in a bright room. I wear masks and earplugs because I don't want my sleep quality to solely depend on the room, so I can sleep better when traveling or napping in a different place.

      2 votes
  10. [3]
    Habituallytired
    Link
    This review has been really helpful for me! I'm a side-fall-asleep-er, but I toss and turn. It's taken a lot to train my body to not throw my mask across the room, but it's still not a perfect...

    This review has been really helpful for me! I'm a side-fall-asleep-er, but I toss and turn. It's taken a lot to train my body to not throw my mask across the room, but it's still not a perfect mask - I still have some light seep through because I sleep on my side as I'm falling asleep.

    I even modified the sleep masks I do have (I have three, so I don't wear the same one every night, and have enough to wash in between uses - which you should definitely do because that's how you get eye-mask-shaped acne) with paperclips unfolded and bent into the shape of my nose bridge. I'm looking forward to trying the molded Alaska Bear 2 Strap Contoured Sleep Mask. Based on his reviews, that's the one that I might actually get the most benefit from.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      chromakode
      Link Parent
      Glad to hear it! I'm also happy you were interested in the 2 strap, I'd hoped to convey how excellent that mask is 👌 -- with some modifications perhaps you can make the nose work for you. I wish...

      Glad to hear it! I'm also happy you were interested in the 2 strap, I'd hoped to convey how excellent that mask is 👌 -- with some modifications perhaps you can make the nose work for you. I wish more masks came in 2 strap versions, there really is no going back imo!

      What kind of mask do you currently use? I've also fantasized about making nose fit modifications 😇

      2 votes
      1. Habituallytired
        Link Parent
        I just use some of the generic shaped ones. I got one from a Disney event, I got one from a flight where they gave out Tumi goodies, and the last one, I sewed myself based on the two masks (they...

        I just use some of the generic shaped ones. I got one from a Disney event, I got one from a flight where they gave out Tumi goodies, and the last one, I sewed myself based on the two masks (they have the exact same shape).

  11. [2]
    Akir
    Link
    I came in thinking this was going to be about respiratory therapy masks, because those can usually be a real pain to deal with with side-sleepers. These ultra-specific deep dives into things that...

    I came in thinking this was going to be about respiratory therapy masks, because those can usually be a real pain to deal with with side-sleepers.

    These ultra-specific deep dives into things that don't ultimately matter all that much are one of the things I love about the internet. I just wish they were easier to find when you actually need this kind of information.

    1 vote
    1. chromakode
      Link Parent
      Ah, I can see the confusion. That would be a really interesting deep dive to read as well! Harrumph! ;) +1. I feel less confidence these days search engines will help folks to find this in the...

      Ah, I can see the confusion. That would be a really interesting deep dive to read as well!

      don't ultimately matter all that much

      Harrumph! ;)

      I just wish they were easier to find when you actually need this kind of information.

      +1. I feel less confidence these days search engines will help folks to find this in the future, but I'll still write it since I want it to exist somewhere :D

      3 votes
  12. bgc
    Link
    Great review, keep it up! I appreciated that it wasn’t fluff and very practical.

    Great review, keep it up! I appreciated that it wasn’t fluff and very practical.

    1 vote