We spend approximately a third of our lives asleep, during which time we rest our mind and body.

Once upon a time sleep patterns were dictated by nature – we bedded down when it was dark and rose when it was light.

Nowadays however, busy lifestyles, technology, shift patterns and a whole host of other factors mean that many of us are trying to catch some precious slumber during daylight hours or whilst surrounded by distractions.

This is why sleep masks are becoming a must-have sleep accessory for so many people.

Jacqui Hurst, in-house sleep expert for Vision Support Services, explains: "Sleeping helps our bodies to recuperate and go through a period of restoration required for us to function normally the next day.

"It’s widely regarded that 95% of people need seven to nine hours of sleep a day to function optimally – or rather people who sleep for less than 7 hours will experience decreased mental and physical performance.

"Sleeping in as dark a room as possible helps people drift off to sleep more quickly, as bright lights suppress melatonin (the hormone that makes us feel sleepy), stimulating sunlight and making us feel wide awake for longer.

"The best way to create a dark environment is to install some high-quality curtains or blinds that will keep out as much daylight as possible.

"Using sleep masks is a great alternative as it allows an individual to have the option of forcibly shutting out the light."

With this in mind, we put some of the best sleep-masks to the test. All of them were worn for at least three nights and compared on the basis of how effectively they blocked out the light, how aesthetically pleasing they were, their comfort, usability, if they were good value, and if they helped the wearer achieve the holy grail of a good night’s sleep.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Dog Gel Eye Mask: £5, Neon Sheep

Don’t be fooled by the appearance of this mask because hiding behind the cheeky dog face is the most ingenious concept. Sandwiched between a soft polyester fabric backing and a plastic outer layer is a layer of gel beads. This allows the mask to be warmed up or cooled down, depending on your preference.

To warm it up, just place in the microwave for 10 seconds, and if it’s not warm enough, another ten seconds. Then lie back and use the Velcro-fastening elastic strap to secure it in place while you enjoy the warmth of the mask to help soothe you off to sleep (which was quicker than the time it took for the mask to cool down in our tester’s case).

Alternatively, if you need refreshing, simply place the mask in the fridge or freezer before you want to use it (being sure to check that the beads are still pliable and not frozen). Then use it as a cooling eye mask.

This mask provides 100 per cent blackout, and the black fabric means that it doesn’t show up make-up marks. Quirky and fun, our tester had to fight to get it back from her children who loved the bead texture and dog design.

The mask can be reused again and again, and once you’ve fallen asleep wearing it you’ll struggle to be without it.

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Amara X ES Bee Eye Mask – charcoal: £20, Amara

Designed by Elizabeth Scarlett and exclusive to Amara, this grey cotton eye mask feels considerably thicker and harder-wearing than some of the others on the market. The sumptuous soft grey fabric is embroidered in the most beautiful gold bees and it comes in a stylish grey pouch which is also adorned with gold.

The elasticated strap feels like it would withstand many uses, and the velvet reverse provides a mole-like softness.

Filled with lavender, the scent is relaxing and not overpowering, and the mask is incredibly beautiful and yet effective too, blocking out light completely. The stylish pouch makes it a perfect gift or an ideal mask for taking on holiday.

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Aroma Home Cream Faux Fur & Satin Lavender Eye Mask: £12.95, Heat Treats

This mask is nicely packaged for a gift and made of incredibly soft faux fur. The inside of the mask feels like silk, but is 100% polyester, and when you put it on it has a gorgeous, yet not overpowering, lavender scent.

While the pale-coloured fabric means that it shows up any makeup marks easily, it can be cleaned with a damp sponge.

Our tester found that it let in a little bit of light around the bottom of the nose area but not enough to prevent sleeping.

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Orihea Contoured Eye Mask: from £6.99, Sleep Eye Mask

What makes this different to all the others is the fact that it’s a 3D Contoured Eye Mask. This means that the memory foam is shaped so that it doesn’t touch your eyelashes or eye. This makes it perfect for a quick daytime nap during which you want your make-up to remain in tact, but also ideal for anyone who doesn’t like the sensation of their eyes being touched by a mask.

For our testers it blocked out 100% of the light, and the thick elasticated band is secured with hidden Velcro so it didn’t get tangled in long hair. It comes with a handy pouch and set of earplugs too to guarantee ultimate sleep satisfaction!

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Spacemasks: £15 for a box of 5, Spacemasks

Social media is in a frenzy for these masks. They’re self-heating and boast of being able to ‘transport you to another dimension – relieving tiredness, eye strain and many other Earthly tensions’. They come in a box of five individually sealed masks.

Within seconds of opening one of the pouches and putting it onto your eyes, we could feel the mask start to slowly heat up. Apparently, this is due to the the oxygen molecules in the atmosphere ‘cuddling up’ to the mask’s iron particles in a natural heat exchange. It’s a very strange sensation to feel your eyes getting warmer as you lay there, but it’s perfect for these cold winter nights.

The masks are meant to stay warm for about 15 minutes, but our testers were always sound asleep by the time they cooled down. The only downside is the heating-up aspect isn’t reusable so once they’ve been used once, whilst they can still be reused as a normal mask, they feel a bit ridged and don’t heat up.

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Floral Silk Eye Mask: £25, BONSOIR London

Made from 100% silk and in a beautiful floral Liberty design, this eye mask feels luxurious and opulent – as if you should be climbing into a four-poster bed to wear it!

The mask feels soft and light against the skin and the elasticated silk strap ensures it stays in place all night but doesn’t press too tight on the eyes. Although a slight bit of light seeps in around the nose area, it provided enough darkness for our testers to drift off to sleep quickly.

It’s undoubtedly stylish, making it a perfect gift that would look just as good on the bedside table.

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Eye Mask in Tropical Leaves with Lavender: £20, Catherine & Jean, Not on the High Street

Made from a cotton satin front with a velvet backing, the tropical leaves design of this bright eye-catching mask is extremely on-trend.

The velvet elasticated headband is soft and not too thick so it doesn’t feel uncomfortable when sleeping on it, and the mask provided our tester with 100% blackout.

The lavender aroma is absolutely divine, and not too overpowering, and the mask looks so gorgeous you’ll want to leave it out on display when it’s not in use.

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Eyes Silk Eye Mask – Black Eyes: £20, Amara

Made from silk and with a soft velvet reverse side, this mask has an extra flap of fabric over the bridge of the nose which was perfect for preventing light seeping in.

It includes two lightweight elasticated straps, which stop it from sliding up or down in the night. The quirky embroidered closed eye design is fun, and although the exterior of the mask is white, the inside fabric that touches your eyes is black, which makes it much more practical for not highlighting makeup marks.

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Dormibene Pure Silk Sleep Mask Set: £7.99, Sleepeyemask.co.uk

The unique thing about this mask is its adjustable elasticated strap, which guarantees it will fit anyone – no matter how big or small your head and hair – and won’t dig in or slide off.

Made from 100% pure silk this mask is luxuriously soft and gently padded. The mask fits quite long down the face, consequently it doesn’t let any fragments of light seep in around the nose or from the cheek area. It also comes in a handy black drawstring pouch which makes it perfect for taking on holiday or work trips.

The fact that it’s black on the inner side is a bonus too because it doesn’t show up any mascara marks.

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Silk Eye Mask: £25, The White Company

Made from 100% silk satin, this navy and white spotted eye mask looks classic yet stylish. The dark navy material is good for blocking out light, and only a small amount seeps in around the lower nose area.

Lightweight, fragrance-free and in a plastic pouch, it’s luxurious yet functional.

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BeautyBio Bright Eyes: £30, Current Body

This dusky pink silky sleep mask has the words ‘Offline’ embroidered across the front. It comes as part of a ‘holiday’ set which includes five packets of eye patches are described as ‘illuminating colloidal silver and collagen eye patches’ and promise to ‘bring back your bright eyes.’

Upon opening one of the packets the two tear-shaped patches inside are quite slimy but stick to the skin well and can be used under the eyes to target puffiness, wrinkles and dark circles, or at the side of the mouth for nose-to-mouth crows feet. They felt very cold when initially applied but after a few minutes the tester forgot they were there. After ten minutes the patches can be removed and the sleep mask put on.

This bedtime routine felt very relaxing, and although there was no visible difference in wrinkles after just one day, after three days the testers eye area looked fresher and healthier. Together this set created a relaxing sleep experience, with an added bonus of improving the appearance of skin around the eyes. And of course the soft, silky mask can be used long after the patches have been used up.

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Sleeping Mask and Earplug Set: £2.49, Mountain Warehouse

Made from soft, padded black cotton and with an adjustable elasticated strap, this mask is basic but effective.

There’s an extra flap of fabric at the bottom of the nasal bridge to prevent any light seeping in around the nose area and strap unclips as well as being elasticated, so is good if you don’t want to mess up hair by pulled it over the top of the head. It comes with foam earplugs too for total sleep heaven.

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The Verdict: Best sleep masks

For a mask that provides total blackout, is extremely cost-effective and offers the added bonus of being warming or cooling, the Dog Gel Eye Mask from Neon Sheep is the winner.

Comfortable to wear and incredibly cosy on cold nights, our tester returned to this mask again and again at bedtime and credits it for helping her to drift off quickly, even with the distraction of screens in the bedroom. The black fabric meant that it didn’t look grubby even after sustained use and the whole family was vying to wear it.

If you’re looking for something purely functional for daytime napping or on flights, the Orihea Contoured Eye Mask from Sleepeyemask.co.uk was ideal. Although it’s not particularly sumptuous, the fact that it doesn’t touch your eyes and provides total black-out is perfect for anyone wanting to block out all distractions whilst keeping their make-up intact.

For anyone searching for a gorgeous gift, the Amara X ES Bee Eye Mask is sumptuous and irresistible. Beautiful, stylish and smelling divine, you would be hard-pushed to find a friend who didn’t thank you for giving them this.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.