We put 11 sleep masks to the test over the course of three weeks, sleeping with them, stretching them and testing for light leaks. Ultimately, we found that the Bucky – 40 Blinks Contoured Eye Mask is the best sleep mask. It’s comfortable, durable, PVC-free and best of all, inexpensive.
Top Pick: Bucky - 40 Blinks
The Bucky is an inexpensive solution to a good night’s sleep. It blocks light from every angle without putting pressure on eyelids. Plus, its strap doesn't tug at or tangle your hair.
Humans have been sleeping as long as they’ve been living, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that someone made it easier to sleep when there’s light keeping you awake. That’s when innovative couple Edward and Elsie Hemphill created the sleep mask. They called it a “sleep eye shade.” It’s aim? Protect sleepers from being “disturbed by light rays,” of course.
Despite its obvious utility, the sleep mask didn’t catch on with Edward and Elsie’s contemporaries. In fact, it didn’t truly catch on for decades. That is until one Miss Audrey Hepburn took to bed with a mask in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Since then, it’s become a beauty sleep staple for some and a travel staple for most.
If you’re in the market for a new “eye shade,” rest assured that you don’t have to get one like Holly Golightly’s (although you can). Instead, you can get one in silk, with convex eye cups, or made of memory foam. The choices are overwhelming (and frankly, a lot of the masks look the same), so we tested them for you. We found that a lot of the popular masks on the market aren’t worth your time, so keep reading to find out which are worth a purchase.
Table of contents
- The five best sleep masks
- Who needs a sleep mask
- How we selected products to test
- How we tested
- The top pick: Bucky – 40 Blinks
- The budget pick: Mack’s Dreamweaver
- The luxury pick: Tempur-Pedic
- Other finalists we tested
- The bottom line
The five best sleep masks
|1. Bucky||$$||Polyester interlock and polyurethane foam|
|2. Mack’s||$||Artificial silk|
|3. Tempurpedic||$$$||Memory foam|
|4. Alaska Bear||$||Silk|
|5. Drift to Sleep||$$||Quick-dry material|
Important features to consider
Fit: Always choose a mask with an adjustable strap, so you can fit it to your head. Masks that only cover the eyes (and not the bridge of the nose) are also preferable, because they’ll fit regardless of your facial features. All of our top picks cover only the eyes and have adjustable straps.
Quality: Choose a mask that doesn’t seem too delicate; it will need to stand up to nightly use or at least being tossed around in your luggage. It should also stand up to a gentle hand-washing in water mixed with detergent.
Material: Your mask should be made of a material that won’t feel heavy or make you sweat. (Our top pick was a polyester blend.) Silk is often touted as luxurious choice for a sleep mask, but our testers who tried the silk masks found that they slipped around too much on their faces.
Shape: Many people prefer eye masks with molded eye cups, because they don’t interfere with blinking or damage eyelashes.
Who needs a sleep mask?
Two vocal groups in our search for the perfect sleep mask were night-shift workers (especially doctors and nurses) and frequent flyers. Both needed a way to block light while sleeping during the day or on a plane. Many city-dwellers also professed their need for a sleep mask, blaming metropolitan lights for a bad night’s sleep. Others still needed a sleep mask because their bedmate needed the light on.
We spoke with Chris Brantner, Certified Sleep Science Coach at SleepZoo.com, who told us that “darkness is essential for sleep. In fact, the dimming of light triggers the pineal gland to begin producing melatonin. Melatonin is crucial to make you feel sleepy. Not only is it necessary to fall asleep, but it also increases as you sleep to push you farther into the sleep cycle. On the flip side, when light hits your eyes, it inhibits melatonin production.”
So really, anyone who doesn’t have a totally dark sleep environment may want to wear a mask.
How we selected products to test
Perhaps unsurprisingly, a search for “sleep mask” yields a staggering number of results on Amazon. So, we started by filtering out masks with under four stars and less than several hundred reviews.
To further separate the wheat from the chaff, we took to forums like Mark’s Daily Apple (a health site) and Flyertalk (a frequent flyer blog). There, we heard from avid proponents of a good night’s sleep and frequent travelers who strive to get it. We used their suggestions for the best sleep mask to pare down our list of contenders.
We found that some of the most frequently-reviewed masks on Amazon were also the most recommended on the forums; so those ones made it to our list of finalists. We also added a memory foam mask from Tempurpedic, which many consumers loved.
Finally we took to our burgeoning list of finalists with a fine tooth comb, weeding out masks that seemed too redundant in material, design, or both.
How we tested
We rounded up eight sleepy testers and asked them to select masks from our list of 11. Then we sent them home to hit the hay, asking that they sleep with each mask every night for a week. At the end of each week, they completed a survey about their experience. We asked them to answer questions like:
- Did your mask interfere with your ability to blink or flutter your eyelids?
- Does this mask block light from every angle? If not, where does the light come in?
- Does the strap fit and stay put comfortably? If not, why?
Next, we pulled hard on the straps and on the fabric of each mask, noting how well each stood up to the abuse. We found that each mask we tested stood up to aggression, and each mask’s straps snapped firmly back into place.
After that, we asked each tester to try on each mask in bright, fluorescent lighting, then document where light came through, if anywhere.
Finally, we hand-washed each mask to see how well it held up. Happily, each mask stood up well to a thorough scrubbing.
The top pick: Bucky – 40 Blinks
We’re not the first people to find the Bucky – 40 Blinks Eye Mask awesome. In fact, it was the most frequently recommended eye mask in the travel and health forums we visited. Remincent of your favorite pair of swim goggles, it has molded cups that keep pressure off your eyelids and an adjustable velcro strap to keep it secure on your face.
Our testers found that it didn’t irritate their skin or interfere with their blinking. The mask let their skin breathe, and it blocked light from every angle. (This, one of our testers pointed out, is impressive. They said their small nose leads to light seeping in through the bridge of other masks.) The Bucky didn’t leave any marks on faces in our testing, and our testers found the strap comfortable and high quality.
Bucky- 40 Blinks
The Bucky is quality construction for a low price. It's hypoallergenic and PVC-free. Win Win!
In our fluorescent lighting test, the Bucky still passed with flying colors. Each tester who tried it on said it blocked the harsh light from every angle. And though it’s not the cheapest mask on our list, it’s still a bargain at about 10 dollars.
Bucky — a Seattle-based company — started out making naturally-filled neck pillows, and has since expanded to more comfort-oriented products, like their PVC-free eye mask. Though Bucky says some of their products are made in the USA, they don’t specify if the eye masks are one of their domestic products.
Regardless of where this eye mask originates, we almost guarantee it’ll give you a good night’s sleep. We love that this mask is hypoallergenic, hand-washable and weighs less than an ounce. And with molded convex eye cups, it shouldn’t mess with your REM sleep or your eyelash extensions.
If there’s one thing we don’t like about the Bucky mask, it’s that its strap will not adjust to fit a child’s head.
- The Bucky – 40 Blinks is hypoallergenic and hand-washable, with molded eye cups.
- It blocks light from every angle, even in a bright, fluorescent-lit room.
- At less than an ounce, this mask doesn’t feel weighty or leave your face sweaty.
The budget pick: Mack’s – Dreamweaver
Very similar in design to the Bucky, the Mack’s Dreamweaver sleep mask rings in at just a few dollars cheaper. And while still a good mask, the few dollars may make a difference when it comes to blocking light. Some of our testers complained that the Mack’s had a tendency to let in light underneath the eyes if it’s not positioned on your face properly.
That being said, they liked its convex design and two straps, which help it stay positioned on your head more securely. This means it also stays put on kids, which the Bucky, according to their website, will not.
If you want an inexpensive mask to keep in your carry on bag, choose the Mack’s.
The Mack’s also came with an included set of ear plugs, which we were ambivalent about, but might be helpful if you pick this mask up before a flight.
Overall, we recommend the Mack’s if you plan to use it just a few times per year for travel. If you want a mask to sleep with every night, go with the Bucky.
- The Mack’s Dreamweaver is our budget pick; at around seven dollars, it also comes with ear plugs.
- It has convex eye cups and two straps, ensuring it stays in place on your head.
- If not positioned properly, the Mack’s can let in some light under your eyes.
The luxury pick: Tempur-Pedic
When we first heard of the Tempur-Pedic — a sleep mask made of memory foam — we thought it was over-indulgent. With a price tag of almost $30, it felt like an unnecessary splurge. However, rave reviews on many-a-forum led us to give it a shot.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, our testers loved it. So much so that the first person to wear it insisted on getting it back after testing. They found that despite its plushness, it didn’t feel heavy, interfere with their blinking, or irritate or feel heavy on their skin. Furthermore, they found that its strap, combined with all of the extra cushioning, helped it stay securely in place.
If you’re looking to Indulge, choose the Tempur-Pedic. The higher price comes with comfort and efficient light blocking.
Our subsequent testers, who tried on the Tempur-Pedic in a bright room, found that it did a superb job of blocking out all light.
So is it worth the relatively high price point? It depends. We’d say it performs just as well (and not better) than our number one pick, the Bucky, which costs about 20 dollars less. However, if you plan to use the Tempur-pedic in uncomfortable travel situations, like sleeping against the back of an airplane seat, we can see how the extra padding would give it a leg-up against the competition.
- At around 30 dollars, the memory foam Tempur-pedic mask is our luxury pick.
- It blocks light effectively and provides extra cushioning, without feeling heavy.
- While no more effective than our top pick, the Tempur-pedic may be preferable for travelers forced to sleep in uncomfortable positions.
Other finalists we tested
Sleep masks we recommend
Alaska Bear – Natural Silk Sleep Mask: As soft as the name implies, the Alaska Bear felt luxurious resting against our eyes — even though it only costs about ten dollars. Our testers loved the way it let their skin breathe, but did find that the silky material can slip around on rare occasion, causing light to seep through the bottom of the mask. Those who slept with the mask also liked that it was easy to breathe with it on. It didn’t put any pressure on their nose. And for those of us who wake up and head directly to work or class in the morning, it’s good to know that this one doesn’t leave any awkward red marks on our face.
Drift to Sleep – Unisex Sleep Mask: A couple dollars more than our top pick, the Drift to Sleep performed almost as well. This one is definitely the most flashy of the eye masks we tested. Though rest assured that you can get it in plain patternless colors if you don’t like the purple design. It has molded eye cups that won’t interfere with blinking, and it comes with molded ear plugs. However, if you toss around a lot in your sleep, this mask may not be for you. One of our testers who is a restless sleeper found that it moved in their sleep.
Sleep masks we don’t recommend
Dream Essentials- Sweet Dreams Contoured Sleep Mask: Unfortunately, the Dream Essentials was one of a few masks in our tests that felt too “heavy” on our testers’ faces, leading to irritated and sweaty skin in the morning. Moreover, its material felt rough, and our focus group testers found that light seeped through the top and bottom of the mask in a well-lit room.
Sleep Mask by Bedtime Bliss: Of all of the masks we tested, the Bedtime Bliss performed the worst. We found this interesting, since it also had the most reviews of any of the masks we tested. Our testers found that it felt heavy and left their skin feeling sweaty, and that the velcro strap continually caught in their hair. Moreover, one of our testers found that the mask had such a noxious artificial smell that they had to abandon wearing it after a couple nights. And, both they and our focus group testers found that light seeped into the mask under the eyes.
Happy Wraps – Hot Cold Lavender Eye Pillow: While this lavender-scented pillow is great for soothing headaches or helping you relax, its lack of strap renders it virtually useless as a sleep mask. Some users who reviewed it said it worked well because they exclusively sleep on their back, but unless that’s you, we don’t recommend it. The pillow does come with an inexpensive-looking conventional eye mask as a bonus. We tried it on but found that it felt like a cheap and flimsy afterthought.
Sleeping Eye Mask by Simple Health: Almost every tester who tried the Simple Health hated it. They found that it was too tight, put pressure on their eyes, and slipped around while they were sleeping. We like the idea of an eye mask with gel inserts, so it’s a shame that this one didn’t perform well.
Jersey Slumber – 100% Silk Sleep Mask: While a silk mask seems like a good idea in theory, it may not be so great in practice. Our testers found that the Jersey Slumber slipped around on their faces as they slept, while the straps simultaneously dug into their scalps.
Sleep Master – Sleep Mask: The Sleep Master, inarguably the most unique looking mask on our list, got mixed reviews when it came to blocking light. Somes testers found that it blocked all light efficiently, while others found that light filtered in under the eyes and through the bridge of the nose. We think the effectiveness of this mask depends on the shape of your face. Some testers also reported an uncomfortable pressing feeling on their eyelids.
The bottom line
Few things are more important than a good night’s sleep. For a sleep mask that’ll make sure you get it, choose the Bucky – 40 Blinks. At just around 10 bucks, you may want to get one for your nightstand and another for your carry on bag.