Scientists share a simple sleep hack that can make you more alert the next day
- Blocking out light from your phone and the street can make you more alert
- Sleep scientists found that wearing an eye mask to bed can even improve memory
Wearing an eye mask to bed can make you feel more alert the next morning, researchers say.
Simply blocking out light, whether from streetlights, electronics or sunlight, helps prevent vertigo, according to scientists who tested the theory.
Study author Viviana Greco described it as an “effective and inexpensive solution.”
Getting enough sleep is essential for our brain and body to function. But one thing that interferes with that important sleep is ambient light. That’s because the sleep-wake cycle at night is regulated by daylight and darkness. The morning sunlight signals our body to wake up and the darkness tells us to fall asleep
To find out if wearing an eye mask makes a difference, experts from Cardiff University conducted two similar experiments.
The first involved 89 participants, ages 18-35, who wore an eye mask every night for a week while sleeping.
For a second week they went to bed without it.
Volunteers were asked to sleep in their own homes and stick to their normal bedtime, so as not to skew the study.
It was performed during the summer because Ms. Greco and team’guessed the eye mask would be more useful if dawn came early’.
What are Circadian Rhythms?
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles linked to your body’s internal clock.
These rhythms are found in many different organisms, including flowers to help them open and close.
Nocturnal animals also use their circadian rhythm to avoid leaving their hiding place during the day.
In humans, circadian rhythms coordinate the digestive system, regulate hormones, and regulate your sleep-wake cycles.
How does it work?
All 24-hour cycles throughout the body are connected to a master clock in your brain and at different times of the day it signals to regulate activity in your body.
During the day, sunlight causes the brain to send wake-up signals to keep us alert and active.
At night, the master clock in the brain stimulates the production of melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep, and then continues to send signals that help us stay asleep throughout the night.
When the body’s circadian rhythm is disrupted, be it through jet lag or shift work, the internal clock can struggle to get the body to fall asleep, stay asleep, and sleep out.
On the mornings of the sixth and seventh days, participants were asked to complete three different tests to measure their brain power.
The results showed that during the masking week, participants performed better on a word pair association task.
They also had slightly better response times, at about 10 milliseconds.
Still, the masks had no real effect on the third test, which required them to tap a string with their hand and press keys on a computer keyboard as quickly as possible.
In a second experiment, 35 people aged 18-35 wore a device that recorded their sleep.
They were also asked to put a light meter on their pillows so that Ms. Greco and her team could record the light intensity when the participants woke up.
Participants spent two nights wearing a mask, and the other two with a mask that was cut out — so it didn’t block any light.
However, sleep diaries showed no differences in sleep hours or self-rated quality between wearing a mask or not, according to results published in the journal Sleep.
Ms. Greco, a PhD student, told PsyPost: ‘Our results speak of improved reaction times and improved memory performance.
“The implications of our results are significant for many everyday tasks, such as driving or any educational or cultural context that requires learning.”
The researchers say their findings may be due to higher levels of slow wave activity in the brain when wearing a mask.
Although the team was unable to capture slow wave sleep, it is known to restore the brain’s ability to encode information.
Studies suggest that this sleep phase — which accounts for up to one-fifth of sleep time — restores connections between brain cells that can become overwhelmed when awake.
Experts believe that this process helps facilitate learning.