There are two luxuries I don’t travel anywhere without: teabags and an eye mask.
I take long distance journeys with multiple layovers and work a sleep schedule into the flight-time; then I can explore from touchdown. It took me a while to get used to but there are a few good tools and tips I use to make it work.
The most important thing is to block out light and create a calm zone wherever I am, which is why I travel everywhere with a REM eye mask and silicone earplugs. I’ve discovered that a lot of regular travellers find it difficult to get to sleep on journeys because they don’t like the way eye masks feel on their eyelids. A few years ago I started looking for a solution and found one!
The reason no one likes anything touching their eyelid during sleep is that during deep sleep aka REM, the eyelid flutters continually (which is where REM ie. Rapid Eye Movement, comes from). If this process is blocked the brain finds it very difficult to switch the body into deep sleep and the sleep cycle becomes broken and exhausting.
REM masks are made to do the light blocking job of an eye mask but without anything touching your eyelids. They do this by having a moulded surface over each eye that makes you look like an alien catwoman – an alien catwoman that is soundly asleep!
The great news is that REM masks are not any more expensive than normal masks, if you know where to look. Since I really like sleep, like a lot, I’ve bought (and lost) loads over the years and now I think I have the best and most affordable options whittled down.
What to look for when buying:
– Contoured sockets
– Adjustable straps
– Breathable, washable material
– Straps that don’t have buckles or velcro that will dig into your head while you’re sleeping
- You wouldn’t believe how many masks fail at every step above. I’m going to share a few options here that I’ve found to be the best after much sleep and error! My favourite mask is the Friendly Swedes deep sleep mask. It’s unavailable currently but this one by Empo looks like a match and it costs less than £8!
The double straps allow you to fit it around your head without any buckles pressing in against the pillow and these are fully adjustable. The mask is ultra-lightweight and can be folded up in the included carry case and squished into any space you have in your pack.
- If you’re looking for a colourful option, this one by Mzoo will fit the bill. Although a single strap, it also has the buckles on one side so won’t affect your head position and the pattern distracts from the bug eye effect, plus it’s £7.
- For a plusher, more luxurious (less bug-eyed) mask, I use this one by Dream Essentials. The material is velvety and the thicker fabric allows for a more seamless fit if you want to make sure all light is blocked out. The strap is wide but not thick and the velcro adjustment is to one side so still suitable for back and side sleepers. It’s much pricier at £18 but if you’re after a heavier mask for full blackout it’s worth taking a look.
I keep an eye mask and earplugs in my hand luggage in a separate pocket wherever I go so that anytime I want a nap, I’m good to go. While my headphones can often double as earplugs, a good eye mask which doesn’t touch the eyelashes is a single purpose work of wonder. Let me know if you use one too!