We all know that regular exercise is important to keep our bodies healthy. Similarly, targeted brain exercises may help increase the cognitive reserve of your brain. But a new study has found that you can enhance cognitive functions by simply wearing an eye mask. The study suggests that the eye mask blocks ambient light while we sleep and therefore enhances the cognitive functions of the brain.
We all are aware of the importance of sleep and how crucial it is for alertness and for preparing the human brain to encode new information. However, ambient light can have an impact on sleep structure and timing. For example, an outdoor streetlight shining through your window is likely to influence your sleep.
The study, which has been published in the journal Sleep, said that the eye mask blocks light while you are sleeping during the night and improves memory and alertness.
Viviana Greco, from the School of Psychology at the University of Cardiff and one of the researchers in the paper, said that the findings of the study suggest that wearing an eye mask during overnight sleep not only improves episodic encoding but also alertness the next day.
In order to understand how sleep masks can help human brains, researchers conducted two experiments.
As part of the experiment, 94 people in the age group of 18-35 wore an eye mask while they slept during the night for a week and underwent a control condition in which light was not blocked for another week. Five habituation nights were followed by a cognitive battery on the sixth and seventh days.
Researchers found superior episodic encoding and an improvement in alertness when these people used the mask. In the second experiment, 35 people of the same age group were asked to use a wearable device to monitor sleep with and without a mask.
This replicated the encoding benefit and showed that it was predicted by time spent in slow-wave sleep.
According to researchers, wearing masks while sleeping can be an effective, economical, and noninvasive behaviour that could benefit cognitive function.