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22nd Apr 2024

Is your sleep mask harming your eyes? The hygiene and fit rules you need to know

Sophie Collins

Sleep masks

“An eye mask can accumulate bacteria, dirt, makeup, natural oils, and sweat,” which can cause infection

Getting enough sleep is essential for our overall health and well-being.

If you’re someone who is sensitive to light, then an eye mask likely plays a crucial role in achieving any kind of a good night sleep. 

Whether you’re battling with late evening and early morning brightness or struggling to sleep during flights, sleep masks are often recommended by various studies and sleep experts.

But, are sleep masks safe for our eyes?

According to experts, sleep masks create a darker sleep environment, promoting better sleep by enhancing melatonin production and improving sleep patterns.

However, there are potential risks associated with them, according to Khuram Sarwar, a dispensing optician at Feel Good Contacts.

He emphasises the importance of proper hygiene and fit when using sleep masks.

Sarwar explains: “Eye masks can accumulate bacteria, dirt, makeup, natural oils, and sweat. If not washed or replaced regularly, this can lead to eye infections.” 

Additionally, poorly fitted masks can exert excessive pressure on the eyes, potentially causing damage to the corneas and contributing to conditions like glaucoma or keratoconus.

The ideal sleep masks are those with contours that prevent pressure on the eyes, and it’s crucial to keep them clean to avoid infections. 

Different types of masks cater to specific needs

1. Sensitive Skin: Silk masks are recommended for those with sensitive skin, as they are non-absorbent and gentle on delicate skin.

2. Breathable Fabric: Cotton masks are popular for their breathability and durability, making them easy to care for.

3. Allergy Relief: Gel masks can alleviate allergy symptoms, offering relief from inflammation and puffiness, with some varieties designed to be cooled in the freezer.

4. Stress Relief: Heated masks and weighted masks are beneficial for relieving stress and tension. Heated masks can combat dry eyes by stimulating oil production, while weighted masks provide a comforting sensation akin to a weighted blanket, helping with faster sleep induction and improved sleep duration.

5. Comfortability: Cushioned masks offer extra padding for enhanced comfort during sleep.

Despite the benefits, it’s crucial to exercise caution when using sleep masks. 

Sarwar advises: “If you experience any discomfort such as pain, redness, or discharge, discontinue use and consult your optician.”

So, while sleep masks can significantly improve sleep quality by blocking out light, choosing the right mask, maintaining proper hygiene, and ensuring a proper fit are essential for your eye health.