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Although sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining good health, many people don’t get enough of it. According to the Mayo Clinic, individuals who get less than seven hours a night may be more prone to everything from depression and high blood pressure to overeating. As if the health consequences aren’t enough, sleep deprivation is also associated with poor work performance, unsafe driving, and impaired focus.
Many people turn to over-the-counter solutions, prescription medications, or herbal remedies to improve their sleep habits. However, there are a few minor lifestyle modifications that can help you get a better night’s rest without swallowing a pill. One of the cheapest and easiest solutions? Blocking out light by wearing a sleep mask.
Humans are wired to sleep when it’s dark. Over time, our bodies have evolved to operate on a 24-hour cycle comprised of circadian rhythms, undergoing physical and mental adjustments in response to natural stimuli like sunlight and darkness. When the body is exposed to too much light at inappropriate times, our circadian rhythms may become disrupted, leading to chronic insomnia and other sleep disorders.
Computer screens, tablets, and smartphones can also affect circadian rhythms. These and other electronic devices emit blue light. Nighttime exposure to blue light alters melatonin levels in the brain and boosts alertness, disrupting the sleep cycle. More alarmingly, recent research suggests a link between late-night blue light exposure and certain cancers.
From blue-blocking glasses to blackout curtains, there are a host of precautions we can take to heal broken circadian rhythms. While we can’t avoid nighttime light entirely, sleep masks offer a quick, affordable way to help reduce light exposure. With a handful of easy-to-find materials, you can put together your own custom sleep mask in less than an hour.
Ready to make a cute sleep mask with a personalized touch? Here’s what you’ll need to get started:
Cut out your printed pattern. Use the pattern to cut two pieces of fabric and one piece of batting or interfacing. It’s fine to leave some extra batting above the nose bridge — you can cut that away later.
Locate the center of each side of the mask by measuring from the top. This is where you’ll pin the ends of your elastic on the right side of the fabric. Baste or pin the elastic to the fabric so it will stay in place when you sew.
Pin the right sides of your fabric together, taking care to tuck in the ends of the elastic, and pin the batting underneath the two layers. By hand or using a machine, sew all three layers together, leaving a 2-inch opening at the top of the mask.
Trim the seam allowance, leaving about ? inch of fabric around the stitching. Turn the mask right side out through the 2-inch opening and use a pen or pencil to push out the seams from the inside.
Tuck in the seam allowance at the top of the mask and pin it closed. If necessary, use an iron to keep the opening shut in a smooth line. Topstitch around the entire sleep mask, closing the two-inch opening and adding a professional-looking border around the entire perimeter. Ironing can help smooth out the fabric if the mask seems slightly puffy or uneven in spots.
Looking for a fun project for your child’s next sleepover or birthday party? Once you know how to make a sleep mask, you have all the tools you need to make funny sleep masks for kids. Instead of standard fabric and cotton batting, try using felt and fusible fleece for children’s projects.
Unlike batting or interfacing, fusible fleece adds weight and stiffness to fabric without sewing — it’s activated by heat. With a little adult assistance and a hot iron, kids can craft a sturdy sleep mask. Felt’s versatile nature makes it easy for kids to cut out fun shapes and attach them to their masks with glue.
Individuals with allergies or skin sensitivities may benefit from using special materials for their sleep masks. Though pricier than many other textiles, hypoallergenic fabrics serve as a barrier to mold spores, pollen, and other allergens that can lead to puffy, irritated eyes in the morning. In contrast, weighted sleep masks may exacerbate related conditions like sinus pressure.
Be sure to launder your sleep mask now and again with a gentle detergent, especially if you frequently wear eye makeup or heavy face creams to bed. These substances can build up on fabric over time, causing breakouts and eye irritation. Some oil-based cosmetics and skincare products can also stain textiles.