Is It Safe To Sleep With A Weighted Eye Mask?

For decades, people have touted the benefits of sleeping with an eye mask, if not for the simple reason that they make it feel more luxurious. But with the growing awareness of wellness practices, a new invention has hit the market that promises even better zzzs: weighted eye masks. Weighing between half a pound and a pound, these new 'heavy' eye accessories are becoming increasingly popular, with many swearing it offers a number of benefits beyond the traditional eye mask, including improved sleep and relaxation.

But with how delicate the eye area is, one can't help but wonder, is it actually healthy, and more importantly safe, to fall asleep with any weight on the eyes? Well, it turns out there isn't an exact consensus there. Per Health News, there currently aren't any widely available scientific studies to definitively say sleeping in a weighted eye mask will cause harm. However, there also aren't any studies that confirm that they're necessarily superior to regular eye masks, either. But that doesn't mean they should be discounted completely. 

"Although they may not have been tested in clinical trials on people struggling with psychological or sleep disorders, more and more studies and evidence support the act that many people find them very effective and helpful," Dr. Smita Patel, founder of iNeuro Institute, explained to TZR.  

Why some people wear weighted eye masks

Similar to a weighted blanket, the appeal with weighted eye mask is the promise of greater relaxation. Dr. Michael Breus, a clinical psychologist, toldInStyle that unlike a regular eye mask, a weighted mask offers deep pressure stimulation and deep touch pressure benefits. "Deep pressure stimulation activates the parasympathetic nervous system — sometimes called the 'rest and digest' system — lowering your heart rate and blood pressure and increasing feelings of calm and relaxation," he said. For this reason, some people who already enjoy the regular feeling of an eye mask might find the weighted version to be even cozier.

But along with making a person feel more at ease, some experts claim there are potential health benefits to be considered, too. "A weighted eye mask usually contains small microbeads that offer a compression that some people find comforting as they settle into sleep," David Rubin, a certified sleep science coach and The Sleep Doctor product testing director, told Byrdie. "These masks apply light pressure to your face, which can be helpful for tension around the eyes as well as nighttime headaches or migraines." Moreover, per board-certified dermatologist Dr. Joshua Zeichner, these weighted masks also have the potential to diffuse extra fluid around the eye, which could help minimize dark circles However, there's not enough research to confirm exactly how helpful they are for this or for migraines. For that reason, Tiffany Paul, founder and CEO of SLEPT, recommended to Sunday Edit checking with your doctor first.

But weighted eye masks can potentially cause problems

Although weighted eye masks are generally considered safe, for some people, the potential cons may outweigh the potential pros. Putting any amount of weight on your eyelid for long periods of time could cause the pressure inside the eye to become higher than average, resulting in a condition called ocular hypertension. As optometrist Janet Aug told USA Today, "This [pressure] can potentially damage the optic nerve causing progression of diseases of the optic nerve like glaucoma." Equally, weighted eye masks may not actually be as comfortable as ads would lead one to believe. Because the mask may move when you naturally turn over at night, it could awkwardly press into the face depending on the position you're in, which may result in a disturbed sleep rather than a relaxed one. 

Still, while there's no major research declaring that a weighted mask will definitely cause harm, it's still probably for the best to cautious. "The longer the pressure is on the eyes, the greater the potential risks, so overnight use could be more risky than short term use," Aug said. In other words, if you're taking a short nap or want a little extra help getting into the zone with meditation, it's probably fine to use a weighted mask. But if you're planning to sleep for several hours? You may want to leave it in the drawer until more professional research is done.