This article is a part of CNN Underscored’s Guide to Sleep, a week-long focus on everything you need to sleep better. We’ll be featuring new products and exclusive deals all week, so check in every morning to see what’s new.
Sleep masks may seem to all be the same, but from how much light they block out to the amount of pressure they apply to your eyes, these sleep aids can indeed vary greatly. So over the course of more than a month, we tested nine sleep masks to find the best option out there. We focused on the uniqueness in design, how much light each filtered out and comfortability during several nights’ worth of sleep. Ultimately, one won us over for its dream-inducing design choices.
Best sleep mask overall
The Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask features a genius nose wire, so it blocks all — and we mean all — of the light. The mask is soft on the eyes and comfortable on the head, and it never so much as budged during the night, no matter our sleep position.
You don’t always have to pay top dollar to get the best the world has to offer. Case in point: the Mavogel Cotton Sleep Eye Mask.
Let’s get right to our favorite thing about this mask: the adjustable nose wire. Similar to the nose wire in the face masks that we have become all too familiar with, the Mavogel’s nose wire lets you get the perfect light-blocking, lock-in-place fit. Many masks had a slight crack of light around the nose bridge. This mask, though, formed the best seal around the edges, blocking out more light than any other mask we tested.
The 100% cotton fabric is some of the softest jersey we’ve ever felt against the eyes. The Mavogel is so light, soft and airy that it has a barely there feeling. While we found all masks to press on our eyelids ever so slightly so that blinking was noticeable, this mask provided the lowest amount of pressure on the eyelids of all of the nonelevated masks that we tried.
It’s the slim, nonelevated profile of the Mavogel that makes it a winner for all sleep styles: back, side, stomach — or combination somewhere in between. It withstood a rigorous tossing-and-turning test like a champ by not budging out of position — thanks to that nose wire — and hair was not tangled in the strap. We do wish that the adjustable head strap were a tad wider to spread out the line of pressure around the head, but it was so subtle that we’re really splitting hairs to make this comment. Tapered wings connecting the strap and mask prevent light leakage from the sides and these little ditties did the job just right. Other masks that we tested had much larger wings without a larger observed benefit.
And, although more than half of the masks that we tested come with their own travel bag or box, this one was the most well thought out. The small pouch comes with a little carabiner so that it can easily be clipped onto any travel bag. The only thing we don’t like about the bag is that the mask has to be folded to fit inside, which affects one of the most brilliant things that this mask offers: a nose wire. We found that the nose wire can become deformed over time if you keep folding it up to fit into the pouch.
Thanks to its unique nose bridge, effective side wings and staying power, we’re confident you won’t find a better sleep mask — especially considering its $10 price.
- Light blockage: A sleep mask that doesn’t block the light is like a swimming pool without water. That’s why we weighted this category more than others. Masks that even showed the slighted crack of light lost a point. We tested in broad daylight and at night in a less-than-pitch-black New York City apartment.
- Material composition: When something is going to sit on your eyes all night while you sleep, it has to be soft and breathable. While testing, we were careful to note whether the skin where the mask touched felt hot, cold or uncomfortable at all. We also paid attention to how our eyes felt after a night of rest with the mask on. Were they dry? Did they feel stifled? The softer and more breathable the mask, the higher the score.
- Face shape versatility: No two faces are exactly the same, and that becomes glaringly apparent when trying to find an eye mask that works for everyone. We judged each mask on its ability to accommodate a variety of face shapes and sizes, nose types, cheekbone types and eye types. The more versatile, the higher the score.
- Overall build: We stretched elastics, balled them up, washed them, dried them and slept in them to see how they held up to typical wear and tear. Then we judged which ones took a beating, still worked and looked like new.
- Packability: Sleep masks are a popular travel companion for frequent flyers, and our top pick had to pack well. We looked at how the mask itself withstood being jammed into a suitcase or purse and whether it came with a travel bag of its own. Masks lost points for getting wrinkled or damaged and also for damaging other objects in the bag.
- Weight: Going into this test we weren’t sure if weight would matter or not, so we decided to weigh each mask and then determine if that had an impact. It turned out that it wasn’t a consistent way to judge a mask. Some lighter masks felt better than heavier and vice versa, so we ended up blending this with the comfort score.
- Washability: This was another surprising category. We had assumed that at least one of the masks would be machine-washable, but none of the masks that we tested met that expectation. We judged by how difficult each mask was to clean, dry and make ready to wear again. Some did better with the press of an iron, while others could be rinsed in the morning and worn in the afternoon without any fuss. One was completely unwashable. The highest points went to the masks that could be cleaned well without extra steps or difficulty.
- Color options: We like options when it comes to a personal accessory like this, so masks that offered more colors and patterns got higher marks.
- Rest quality: Now, this category was a tricky one. We judged how well a mask stayed on while sleeping, but sometimes it didn’t matter if it fell off. Why? We kept on sleeping and didn’t even notice the mask was missing because it helped us fall asleep so hard. We considered that a win, minus a point or two.
- Stability: The last thing that we want is to notice the mask in a way that’s distracting, painful or annoying. Masks that shifted, were noticeable or even — gasp! — woke us up lost points. We especially noted if it caused uncomfortable pressure on the head, eyes or face. If a mask stayed put and felt invisible, it came out on top.
- Heat/dryness: Ew. We hoped we wouldn’t come across a mask that really failed this test, and luckily we didn’t. Some felt dry and some felt a little swampy, so they lost points, but none were a total fail. Phew.
- Adjustability: During this test we measured each eye mask and band to determine the minimum and maximum head circumference and then weighed that against the averages for adult men and women. It was surprising to see how far a few masks strayed from meeting the average in both directions.
- Hair damage: Wearing an elastic band around your head all night could cause breakage or other hair damage, so we put each mask to the test. Masks that left our hair less tangled and with more typical bedhead got higher scores.
- Warranty: Because masks tend to be low-ticket items, a guarantee or warranty turned out to be elusive at best. If one was available in any fashion, it got points. Three of the eight finalists that we tested fell into that category.
Sleeping in the Ostrichpillow Eye Mask, on our backs or our sides, was the stuff of dreams. We slept in total darkness peacefully, and even if we had to get up in the middle of the night, it was simple to remove the mask and reapply it without much fumbling. One drawback to this mask, because of the soft but structured cups around the eyes with the Ostrich — very successful at keeping the mask in place and blocking light — sleeping facedown doesn’t feel natural at first. So, considering the price difference, we think you’re better off with the all-around great Mavogel.
Though, you can save 15% on Eye Masks and Memory Foam Bed Pillows at Ostrichpillow with code CNNSLEEP15 through March 18.
With an almost identical score as our winner, the Brooklinen Mulberry Silk Eye Mask didn’t disappoint much. This simple flash of fine fabric worked like a boss and felt like the luxury experience we expected. It did keep our skin feeling cool throughout the night and our hair untangled in the morning, and it was able to comfortably accommodate sleep in almost any position. However, because it lacks a Velcro closure and adjustable nose wire, it wasn’t as adjustable as our winner, which caused a string of differences. Differences include a smidge of light leakage and a tighter fit over the eyelids, not to mention it couldn’t accommodate as wide of a window of head circumferences.
The MZOO Eye Mask comes with a pillow of satin-covered foam surrounding each eye, elevating the mask. This is a brilliant feature for eye comfort because eyes can blink naturally without feeling the mask, and there isn’t any pressure on the eyelids. Bonus: It also provides an extra light barrier and is perfect for people with false eyelashes. The mask is more for back sleepers, though, as it is incredibly comfortable — so long as you’re not on your side or stomach. Roll over to your side and those cozy light-blocking foam pads may cause the mask to push out of position, cause too much pressure on the eye area or both.
This mask was noticeably different from the other masks that we tested. First of all, it’s very heavy at 186 grams. That’s because it’s filled with little beads that nestle into your cheeks and eyebrows to provide a soothing pressure. The very narrow elastic headband felt like a joke, but it actually worked pretty well. Obviously, this mask isn’t for side or stomach sleepers, or for people who toss and turn at night, because of its bulk. In fact, it’s really not great for a full night of sleep. But it is excellent for a de-stressing nap on your back or even in your desk chair.
In our testing pool, this low-priced mask didn’t come close to the score of our winner, but it held its own and came in fifth place overall. This mask is your standard, run-of-the-mill sleep mask. If a mask that reflects your personality is just as important as the fit, then this mask — that comes in a staggering 24 color, pattern and art options — is your match. It’s easy to pack, comes with a storage bag, blocks out most of the light and works for a variety of sleep styles and face shapes. However, it does not meet the top-tier standards in a bunch of areas. The Alaska Bear Eye Mask’s silk caught on my eyelashes when I blinked. It also got very wrinkled after it came off during the night and left hair slightly tangled. So, for the same price, we’d much rather get the Mavogel.
The Nidra’s cupped design makes it look like a tiny strapless bathing suit top for your eyes. It also looks almost exactly like another mask that we tested: the Bucky. This mask impressed us less than our winner, but that doesn’t mean the Nidra is a total throwaway. Those weird eye cups are actually extremely comfortable for people who blink or open their eyes in their sleep — or who wear false lashes. But it did not come through in many of our tests. It came off early in the night due to shifting. Hair was staticky after a night of wearing the mask, and the mask itself got deeply wrinkled after one night. We wouldn’t recommend throwing this into a suitcase without putting it in a bag or box — it doesn’t come with one — because the Velcro can snag on other fabrics and objects. The brand does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, however, which was one of the most generous guarantees in our testing pool. Overall, this mask was fine but not great.
Admittedly, we were excited to test this mask. Tempur-Pedic is known for its incredibly comfortable, conforming foam in all of its uses, and an eye mask seemed like a natural extension. Unfortunately, this mask ended up with the second-lowest score out of all eight masks that we tested. This is proof that you don’t always get what you pay for. Why? The Tempur-Sleep Mask is just too bulky, without purpose. The extra rolls of foam around the bottom are so big that the mask wouldn’t stay under my eyes. My cheeks pushed them up on top of my eyelids. The fabric collected dust and lint more than any other mask tested, and it felt drier on the skin and eyes than the other masks. Another point of issue was the pressure on the nose and cheeks that actually got to a point of hurting and waking me up. The Tempur-Sleep Mask cannot be washed, it absorbs creams and moisture from the skin and the Velcro closure will snag fabrics if not carefully packed separately in a suitcase. However, this mask blocks out light like nobody’s business, and if you have the right face shape, it could be a dream. It also comes with the most robust warranty that we tested at a full year. We have seen some seriously glowing reviews of this mask, so we were truly surprised at our findings. The Tempur-Sleep Mask simply didn’t win against the competition.
When we took this out of the packaging we thought there was a mistake. It looked like we got another Nidra. But after closer inspection, we did find a few differences that lowered its overall score. There were also a couple of elements that scored higher than the Nidra but didn’t take it into star status. The Bucky mask ever so slightly larger, which oddly made it less effective at blocking light. The material felt a little more rough and textured than the Nidra and other masks that we tested. We like that it comes in seven colors and unique prints, including marble, floral and even tie-dye. One cool thing about the Bucky — and the Nidra, for that matter — is that it fits a wide range of head sizes, from 16.5 inches to 25 inches un-stretched, making it an option for kids as well as adults. Although this unique cupped mask has its perks, it wasn’t enough to win us over in the end.