One of the biggest lessons I’ve picked up while mindlessly surfing the internet is how important it is to sleep. The Strategist dedicated an entire week to the topic, Arianna Huffington wrote a book on it, and both Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates have spoken at length on the subject. My problem with sleep is not the concept, but the execution. I have no shortage of neuroses: I love writing lists, have been nicknamed the errand queen, and have a penchant for goal-setting. One of my favorite places to take stock and think through what I need to get done is my bed, which means my mind is rarely calm when I lie in it. Add to that, the north-facing side of my London bedroom is more window than wall, and despite having a blackout blind, the light starts to creep in around the sides in the early morning hours.
It was about a decade ago when I realized that putting on an eye mask, and the consuming darkness that ensued, really did help me shut everything else out and fall asleep. (Whether it’s psychosomatic or legitimate I’ll never know, nor do I care to find out.) On a train or a plane, in a car or, of course, in bed, eye masks almost never fail me. As a result, I keep them at arm’s reach of my bed or couch, as well as inside every weekend bag and short- and long-haul suitcase I own. Over the years I’ve bought upwards of 25, and have more than a dozen in my current rotation. Below are all my favorites of late, some of which not only help me snooze but also work to soothe and de-puff my tired eyes, too. And if you’re not shopping for yourself, I should note that any would make a lovely gift.
The one for sleeping in bed
I’m most fickle about the eye mask that lives in my bedside table’s drawer. This silk White Company mask is a new addition to my collection, after I sadly retired its predecessor from wear. Key to the success of an eye mask is the fit — too tight, it’s uncomfortable and feels oppressive, too loose and it falls off. I love the strap on this because it has serious give — a bit like an old-fashioned phone cord (remember those?!). It feels completely secure the moment I put it on my head, and so far, no matter how much I toss and turn at night, the mask has never fallen off. It’s comfortable and breathable, and the polka dots offer a little wink and hint of fun.
The one for sleeping on the couch
I discovered this cult brand at a sample sale when I used to work at Vanity Fair. I wasn’t quite ready to splurge on one of its cozy sweatshirts, but saw that it sold cashmere eye masks. It’s incredibly soft, hugs the face perfectly, and I love it for a Sunday afternoon snooze.
The one for weekend getaways
Slip seems to be everywhere at the moment. I first discovered the brand after finding a few of its silk scrunchies in an event goody bag, and with scrunchies among the ’90s-fashion accessories that are having a prolonged moment, I now see Slip everywhere (designer Karen Walker is among the brand’s fans). This mask, which is made from mulberry silk, is my go-to for weekends away, so I don’t have to worry about packing any of my other ones. In fact, I leave it in my suitcase to avoid any drama. I have a pink one, but they’re available in a ton of other colors. And to ensure nobody I’m getting away with snags it, I had my initials stamped onto the mask’s top right-hand corner (Slip offers personalization of its masks and other products).
The one for puffy eyes
I often work late, which doesn’t help in my ongoing effort to get more sleep. And on those long nights, or when I return from a late event, this is my go-to. I discovered it after falling in love with the brand’s silk pillowcases. And now whenever I’m feeling a bit rundown and puffy I pop the gel insert into the fridge for a few hours, and ta-da! You can sleep all night in this, or just pop it on for an hour of TLC (it’s particularly handy for early morning car rides to the airport).
The one I never fly without
Liberty London is one of my favorite places in the world. Crafted by its in-house team, this eye mask is made from cotton but has a lovely sheen, as if it were silk. I love the bright-blue print. Where most eye masks are the type of thing you slip on when no one else is looking, I always feel chic wearing this one in public.
The one social media made me buy
I normally stick with tried and tested brands sold by companies I already know and shop at. However, about a year ago, these Spacemasks started popping up on my Instagram feed and in a few gift guides, and I was curious. The jasmine-infused masks are self-heating (they warm up once they come in contact with your skin) and disposable and marked with a best-before date. They’re a total delight. And even though they’re disposable, they’re still proper masks, complete with straps to go around your head. Because these help de-puff and calm tired eyes, I use them before big events, date nights, on airplanes, or after a long day glaring at my computer screen.
The super-luxe one
This was a gift, and I didn’t quite realize how nice a gift until I thought to Google it one rainy afternoon. It comes in a clever matching cashmere pouch, and it is beyond soft. Like my cashmere Chinti and Parker mask, this is so cozy against my face. But it’s a bit thicker, almost doughlike, making it even more plush and well-cushioned — like resting a big marshmallow over my eyes.
The one filled with lavender
Because I write for a living, I spend all day every day hunched over a laptop, often at home on the sofa, in bed or at the kitchen table. And my posture is certainly not what the doctor recommends. When I’m feeling particularly sorry for myself, I sometimes book an at-home massage, and will always incorporate my eye pillow into the treatment. Technically not a mask (it doesn’t have a strap), the pillow still covers my eyes and is filled with lavender and flaxseed. It smells divine, and lavender is said to help with relaxation and stress reduction. For added coziness, you can heat the pillow, though personally I’ve never bothered to. The eye pillow I actually use is one my mom found for me at a shop in Nova Scotia, but this pillow from Anthropologie is very similar, and has a silk back, so it will surely feel nice and smooth against your face. (For another slightly less-expensive silky lavender-scented eye pillow, check out the one contributor Hermione Hoby wrote about.)
The one for hotel stays
A friend of mine introduced me to the whimsical designs of Pam Weinstock, and as soon as I saw that she did eye masks, I was onboard. Made in the U.K. from 100 percent silk, Pam creates all the patterns herself and digitally prints them onto the masks. Like my Slip mask, I reserve this one for travel, mainly for whenever I am staying at a hotel. That’s because, every so often, the electric-blue dye from the mask very cheekily transfers onto a pristine white pillowcase by morning. It’s a subtle reminder that, yes, “Bridget Arsenault slept here.”
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