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Earplugs and Eye Masks for a Good Night’s Sleep

Are loud noises — like your spouse’s snoring — or bright lights making you lose out on precious sleep? Check out our guide to finding the right type of earplugs and eye mask to help you get a solid night’s slumber.

Earplugs to Suit All Takers

Earplugs of all shapes, materials and constructions are hitting the market today. If one style doesn’t suit you, there’s another that most likely will. The main types include:

  • Foam earplugs are usually made of slow-recovery, memory foam intended for extended wear. Simply roll and then insert them into the ear canal where they’ll expand to plug the ear. Foam earplugs, which are disposable, can come in various shapes, including tapered and contoured, and multiple sizes.

  • Hybrid push-in style earplugs, which combine a firm stem with a foam tip, don’t need to be rolled before you put them in your ears. These contoured plugs can be used multiple times and are touted as providing both good comfort and effective noise protection.

  • Silicone earplugs are typically made of soft silicone putty that you roll into a ball and then mold to fit over the external part of your ear canal, rather than inside the canal itself. These earplugs can be used several times before they lose their stickiness.

  • Custom molded earplugs, which are made of acrylic, vinyl or silicone, require an impression of your ears so that the plugs fit the ear and ear canal snugly. These earplugs are generally longer lasting and more durable than other plug types.

What to Look for When Shopping for Earplugs

Whether it’s foam or silicone, push-in or molded earplugs you’re leaning towards, you’ll want to keep in mind the following — and if possible, test for each of them — when you’re on the hunt for the perfect pair of earplugs.

Fit

A lot of earplugs are one size fits all and typically sized for men. However, some earplugs come in small, medium and large. Try a variety to see which best fits your ear and ear canal. Also, try them when you’re lying down. Your ear canal changes shape, and pressure levels also change, when you’re reclining vs. standing up. The last thing you want is to have ill-fitting earplugs that fall out while you sleep.

Comfort

Since your goal is to get a good night’s sleep, make sure to buy earplugs that feel comfortable when they’re in. If they cause any irritation or itchiness, then you’re not going to wear them consistently, or at all. It’s also a good bet that they’re not the right size for your ear canal.

Ease of Use

Are your earplugs easy to put in and take out? To up your chances of wearing earplugs night in and night out, you may want to consider a pair that is. Additionally, are you putting them in properly? Many earplugs come with instructions or a video tutorial to help ensure their effective use. Have a thorough look through these how-tos before popping them into your ears.

Effectiveness

Most earplugs come with a Noise Reduction Rating (NRR) meant to clue you in to how effective the plugs are when it comes to cutting down on sound. The idea is that the higher the NRR, the greater the potential to reduce noise. That said, since these ratings are based on lab tests (rather than on humans), take them with a grain of salt when doing your own test run with various earplugs.

Eye Masks for a Better Sleep

Eye masks do more than just block out unwanted light. The use of eye masks can enhance your sleep quality by increasing your melatonin (sleep hormone) levels and lengthening your REM (rapid eye movement) time. Choosing the right eye mask will help ensure you get high-quality, refreshing sleep every night.

The main types of eye masks include:

  • Traditional eye masks are made from materials like cotton, silk or polyester. They usually have an elastic or velcro band that’s either adjustable or non-adjustable.

  • Gel masks made for sleeping typically have a gel insert that you can refrigerate. If you’re sleeping in a hot environment or wake up with puffy eyes in the morning, a cooling gel mask can provide relief.

  • Aromatherapy masks are infused with herbs like lavender to provide a soothing scent meant to aid in relaxation. If certain scents help you fall asleep, consider experimenting with aromatherapy masks.

What to Consider When Shopping for Eye Masks

Test out potential eye masks while considering the following points:

Material

Look for a breathable material that’s soft to the touch. Non-breathable materials like polyester can cause sweating or itching, which may disrupt your sleep. As well, opt for more comfortable, wider straps instead of thin elastic straps that can dig into your skin.

Fit

Choose an eye mask that fits snugly, but still leaves enough space for your eyelids to move. You shouldn’t feel any pressure around your eyes. Some folks are comforted by the slight touch of the eye mask on their eyelids. If you find this uncomfortable, look for a mask with eye cavities. These allow you to open your eyes unimpeded with the mask on.

Ability to Block Light

Some eye masks block out 100% of the surrounding light, while others block out 99% or less. Depending on whether you need complete or partial darkness to get a sound sleep, consider which mask will be best for you.

Your Sleep Position

Are you a side sleeper? Or maybe a stomach sleeper? Bulkier eye masks, like those with eye cavities, tend to shift around easily. If you move around while you sleep, you may be better off with a flat, snug eye mask that doesn’t shift when you do.

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