My struggle with falling asleep dates back to college, where a 24-hour three-on/three-off lab schedule permanently wrecked my internal circadian rhythm, making falling asleep a near impossibility. I have no trouble staying in snoozeland once I’m down, but getting to that blissful state has been a painful nightly battle ever since, involving doctors, pills, and homeopathic methods. I’m not a big fan of narcotics like Ambien, but over the counter drugs like Tylenol PM are barely effective enough for me personally.
A completely blacked-out bedroom helps, but it's awfully hard to drag yourself out of bed in the morning without a little sunlight for encouragement. While I had a brief love affair with the Philips Wake-Up Light (an impressive lamp that simulates a convincing artificial sunrise to gently wake you), I find myself relying on a humble, lo-fi alternative—the sleep mask.
Though popularized by Audrey Hepburn in 1961’s Breakfast At Tiffany’s, the sleep mask was invented way back in 1931 by a married couple from California, as a way of mitigating sleeplessness caused by ‘modern lighting systems’. That idea was backed up as recently as 2010 by the UCLA Sleep Disorder Center, whose research again demonstrated that “direct exposure to such abnormal light sources inhibits the body's secretion of melatonin,” the chemical that signals our bodies to shut down for the night.
Not only is the sleep mask great for falling asleep in bed while your partner does the NYT crossword puzzle beside you, it’s also cozy, inexpensive and easy for traveling. The basic silk version is a tried and true classic, but Living Pure also makes a pretty impressive 3-D model that is arguably a superior product...despite looking like a push-up bra strapped to your forehead. And despite sleeping with something strapped to my face, I had zero trouble adjusting to the sleep mask itself. It has never been a hassle or annoyance, even during humid summer nights.
Lastly, I feel well-rested after wearing the mask, but its greatest benefit is in the mornings, allowing for a quick transition from darkness to full sunlight, helping me feel wide awake and chipper. If your ‘17 goal is to get the sleep you deserve, this easy purchase is an actual life-changer.