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Getting sleep on planes (or in general) is often elusive. Even in the most comfortable business class seat or in the fanciest hotel room, factors such as jet lag, noise, stress and light can make it difficult to snooze while traveling. Sometimes, just blocking out light with a sleep mask can improve your chances of falling asleep.
That’s why we tested and ranked some of the most popular — and intriguing — sleep masks you can buy. We didn’t review TPG’s own Wake Me Up For Breakfast Eye Mask because, well, that would be biased. But if you want to meet other TPG readers on the plane or at the airport lounge, wearing one is a great conversation starter. It’s also ideal for when you actually want to get woken up for breakfast.
Whether you’re looking for something lightweight and simple, or an eye mask with all the frills, our definitive guide can help you find the perfect eye mask for your sleep style.
This eye mask has a pocket in the front where you can slip in a fragrant sachet, as well as a soft, adjustable strap with velcro and hooks. You can also use the mask without the sachet, or swap it for a different scent.
The Look and Feel: Red or purple satin linen lined with black trim, the sleep mask looks chic. The pocket is unobtrusive and the mask seems more firm than some rivals. It’s also stiff, and the mask isn’t foldable when the lavender sachet is inserted, but it does lie flat. A long, thick pillowed portion supports and protects the under eye area.
My Experience: I used the mask to nap at home and later on a long train ride from Madrid to Barcelona. Although I love the smell of lavender, I found it to be overwhelming after a few minutes, and had to remove the sachet, which defeats the purpose of this particular mask. The pillowed under eye portion, though soft, pushed the mask upwards, letting light in and making the mask move around a lot, so I ended up just taking it off. (It does ride up less if you’re sitting upright.) Having to constantly pull it down was annoying, and I wouldn’t use this mask again.
Best For: Anyone anxious who uses aromatherapy to relax or fall asleep. If you love a strong lavender scent, you could make this work. Maybe.
Don’t Use: If you’re sensitive to smells and perfumes, or need to block 100% of the light.
The Verdict: 4/10
The Gravity mask uses its weight (one pound) to lightly press on key pressure points. It claims to help wearers relax and fall into a deeper sleep, faster than ever. But is it worth the $35 price tag?
The Look and Feel: Gray and bulky, but a bit luxurious, the Gravity sleep mask has an adjustable strap and clip. The silky interior and fleece exterior are cozy, but it’s very heavy. You may find it weighs down your carry-on.
The Experience: I tested the sleep mask both at home as well as on an overnight flight in economy from New York to Madrid. The mask was soft, completely blocked out the light and the weight was indeed comforting. However, if you’re a side sleeper, it falls to one side and pulls your neck down, which isn’t comfortable. Same goes for sleeping upright. I found that it weighed me down and sagged, which was more annoying than relaxing. As I often fly economy and travel light, I knew this mask wasn’t for me.
Best For: Business class flyers, or people who sleep on their back.
Don’t Use: If you’re hoping to travel light or need to sleep upright (like in economy).
The Verdict: 5/10
The Manta mask guarantees 100% blackout and claims to fit every face, as the mask’s adjustable, hollow eye covers can be shifted around. It also, unlike the Gravity mask, promises that the memory foam eyepieces are “weightless” and won’t put any pressure on the eyelids or face. This, apparently, encourages REM sleep.
The Look and Feel: Wearers will look a bit alien-like or bug-eyed. It has circular, customizable eyepieces and the adjustable strap has soft elastic with velcro and even gel pads for zero slip. It’s soft and lightweight (covered in 100% cotton) and can be easily stashed in your carry-on.
The Experience: I had trouble getting the mask to adjust properly to my face on a long flight. Maybe I have a weird face. When I tried the mask at home, I was able to adjust the eye pieces just right to get a good night of sleep, though it took a few test runs. However, TPG‘s social media editor, Samantha Rosen, tested the mask on her epic first class adventure on Cathay Pacific between Hong Kong and New York. And she also had trouble properly adjusting the mask to block out the light. Maybe she has a weird face, too? “I felt like I had something on my face — which obviously, I did,” Rosen said. “But I think it’s key to have a weightless mask that makes you forget you have what is essentially an upgraded version of a pirate mask on. It just felt awkward and uncomfortable.”
Best For: Side or stomach sleepers, thanks to the memory foam eyepieces that ease into whatever position you’ve assumed.
Don’t Use: If you’re in a rush, on a short flight or can’t be bothered with the adjustments. Or if you have a “weird face” (like us, apparently).
Added Bonus: The mask comes inside a small pouch which doubles as a laundry bag, allowing you to wash it without ruining the eyepieces.
The Verdict: 5.5/10
Buy: MantaSleep.com, $30
The Dream Sleep Mask is probably the least complicated, most basic mask on the list. Sometimes, going back to the basics works.
The Look and Feel: A fleece exterior with a silk-like lining, this large but flat eye mask is extremely lightweight and soft. You can feel the mask touching your eyes, but not in an obtrusive way. It’s also rollable or foldable with an elastic velcro strap.
My Experience: The most basic of sleep masks, this has been a favorite of mine since high school. It’s easy to travel with because you can fold or roll it, and it occupies virtually no space in your carry-on and blocks out all of the light. The silky interior is soft and cool on the eyes and skin, and I often sleep with it on at home, too. However, if you use the mask often (read: daily), the elastic strap stretches out and you’ll soon have to buy a new one.
Best For: Anyone traveling light. This uncomplicated, soft eye mask is appropriate for all types of sleepers and anyone on a budget (you can sometimes find the mask at TJ Maxx or Ross For Less stores for half the price).
Don’t Use: If you don’t like feeling something on your eyelids.
The Verdict: 7/10
With the tagline, “We make dreams happen,” the Sleep Master claims to not only block out light, but also muffle sound. This is perfect on an airplane when you may not need the total silence of noise-cancelling headphones, but muffling flight announcements and plane engine noise can help lure you into a light slumber. This sleep mask is one of the pricier options on our list, so I wondered how it would compare.
The Look and Feel: Made of blue satin and wide around the whole head, you may look a little odd in this large, blindfold-like mask. But the material is soft and smooth.
My Experience: I enjoyed wearing this eye mask on an early morning, three-hour flight from Madrid to Sicily. I felt a little silly wearing it in public, as the thick mask is definitely noticeable. But who cares when you’re asleep? The light was 100% blocked out and the sound was indeed muffled as the thick mask covered my ears, too. My hair did get stuck in the velcro a few times, but the mask felt very secure and stayed on well despite the material. But, I enjoyed a great nap with this mask, and would also consider using it to sleep at home.
Best For: Anyone wanting to block out a little noise and a lot of light at the same time. The mask is appropriate for side, back and stomach sleepers.
Don’t Use: If you’re claustrophobic, as the mask covers and presses your ears and the top half of your face. Also not ideal if you’re concerned about your appearance in public. Travelers with long hair, be careful of getting snarled in the velcro.
The Verdict: 7/10
This mask, which TPG has already reviewed independently of this comprehensive and totally scientific study, is one of the most popular sleep masks on the market. The lightweight mask is best known for its soft material, adjustable strap and contoured, hollowed-out eyepieces. I was immediately excited because the mask is known to be one of the best, despite its relatively low price point.
The Look and Feel: The special eye pieces will make you look a little bug-eyed. It is flexible and foldable though, with an elastic velcro strap. The mask also comes in a variety of colors, and the extra soft foam padding around the eyelids is very comfortable. The hollow eye pockets are ideal for side sleepers and economy flyers, and won’t put pressure on your eyes.
My Experience: I preferred using the mask when flying in economy than sleeping at home, because the hollowed eye pockets didn’t pucker or smash when I was sitting upright. The mask blocked out 100% of the light and didn’t smudge my makeup, allowing me to comfortably nap onboard.
Best For: Economy flyers, back sleepers, people who don’t like the feeling of having anything on their eyelids but want a total blackout. The mask is ideal for anyone with eyelash extensions or long lashes in general. Travelers on a budget will love this mask, because although it’s one of the cheapest on the list, the price to quality ratio is excellent.
Don’t Use: If you’re a side or stomach sleeper, because the hollowed holes can pucker or push when pressed, which may be uncomfortable.
The Verdict: 8/10
This particular sleep mask is made of organic cotton, but is infused with Japanese binchotan charcoal. The mask supposedly maximizes the quality of your sleep by reducing puffiness, tension and fatigue around eyes, thanks to the purifying benefits of this particular kind of charcoal. It also claims to make you look younger. Sign me up!
The Look and Feel: Gray, thin and luxe, the Morihata eye mask is very soft to the touch, thanks to its use of fleece and cotton.
My Experience: Rosen was very intrigued by the mask’s claims and volunteered to test it out at home. She arrived at the office the next day looking delightfully well-rested. “I was really excited to try this out after a long day since [the mask says] it’s ideal for relaxation, meditation, stress relief, airplane travel and a sound sleep,” Rosen said. “Apparently, the mask also claims to make you look 20 years younger? Great! I couldn’t wait to look five. It was really comfortable and I didn’t feel like there was this weird contraption covering my face. It felt luxurious and effectively blocked the light out of my eyes. I worried it might have a strange smell due to the charcoal, but it didn’t. While I didn’t wake up looking like a 5-year-old, I did have a pretty good night’s sleep and would definitely use it again on a plane or at home”
Best For: Business class flyers, nervous flyers and insomniacs who need to relax or who visibly show signs of exhaustion.
Don’t Use: If you have a charcoal allergy or are a child or teen (in case the “20 years younger” claim works on you).
The Verdict: 8/10
Sound Oasis creates sleep masks that use sound and light therapy. This particular mask uses Glo to Sleep technology. You start by holding the mask six inches away from a light source (think: the personal light on the plane) for 30 seconds (less for a softer glow, more for a brighter glow). Then, you place the mask over your eyes and adjust as needed using the velcro strap. Stare at the soft blue lighting inside the mask with a relaxed gaze, blinking as normal, while taking slow, deep breaths. The mask also comes with a sleep coaching audio track you can download on your phone.
The Look and Feel: Black foam with an adjustable velcro strap and foam eye sockets. Your eyes don’t actually touch the fabric or the blue lights, and the mask feels more firm than the others. It’s soft on the eyes and face, but isn’t foldable or rollable.
My Experience: I was pretty suspicious of the light therapy, and wasn’t convinced. After all, isn’t the idea to avoid light when trying to sleep? I already have trouble disconnecting from screens at night. But I needed to try it out, so I held the mask up to my personal lamp on a flight from Tenerife to Madrid, put it on, and followed the directions. As I stared at the lights, I didn’t feel either relaxed or anxious. I noticed that the mask efficiently blocked out all external light, and the built-in lights weren’t too bright or obtrusive, which was a concern I had. Shortly after, I fell into a very deep sleep. After a successful onboard nap, I tried the mask at home at night, and slept a full 8.5 hours without waking up once — not even with stomping upstairs neighbors, street noise, light flooding my city apartment and my husband’s snores. An absolute rarity. Maybe there is something to light therapy after all?
Best For: Insomniacs who have trouble sleeping on planes or at home.
Don’t Use: If light therapy weirds you out, or you don’t like sleep masks.
The Verdict: 9/10
The Bottom Line
When finding the perfect sleep mask for you, price and quality aren’t always in sync. Instead of thinking about your budget, evaluate what kind of sleeper you are (back, side, stomach) and what kind of flyer you are. Are you nervous? Bothered by sound or by light? Always in business class or exclusively in economy? Do you suffer from awful jet lag, or always travels light? Answer these questions, and then pick the best mask for you based on our rankings.
As many of these masks are available on Amazon, be sure to use one of the best credit cards for Amazon purchases. Happy napping!
Featured image via Shutterstock.
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