The $6 Item that Saved My Life In College—And The 7 Years Since
Before I went to college, I hadn’t had a roommate since I was 5. That was the year when my older sister kicked me out of our shared room, announcing to my parents that I “could sleep in the computer room for all she cared, she was nine and not sharing a room with her baby sister anymore.”
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Needless to say, the prospect of having a roommate my freshman year of college forced me to consider the logistics of sharing a very small space for the first time in a very long time—and the first thing that I realized was that sleeping might be an issue. What if I, a late-to-bed, late-to-rise type of person had an early bird roommate? What if, on the nights when I did want to go to bed early, she had to stay up late studying? What if she liked having a light on while she slept? I’m a fitful sleeper, in case that wasn’t already clear, and I was deeply concerned that adding another person to the mix would through my already shaky sense of nighttime equilibrium completely out of whack.
As soon as I was assigned a roommate, we connected over Facebook Messenger (ah, 2008) and it was apparent pretty quickly that she shared my concerns. “I’m going to get a sleep mask so that you can stay up in our room as late as you need to,” she said. I loved sleeping in pitch-black rooms, but I’d never considered using a sleep mask. When you’re 18, a discovery like this is nothing short of mind-blowing. My roommate, I decided, was a genius.
So during my dorm shopping trip at Target, I threw a sleep mask a lot like this one into the cart—and proceeded to sleep like a baby for the rest of the year. There was a short transition period in which I was weirded out as hell that there was a THING on my FACE, but pretty quickly, it felt weird not falling asleep with a light shield over my eyes.
It turns out, my lovely roommate was prone to late-night study sessions at her desk, but it never bothered me, since no light could get through the mask. When the morning light came streaming through the window right next my bed, my sleep mask ensured I slept well enough that I nearly missed early classes on a regular basis. I’d also bought some ear plugs in case her late-night or early-morning rustling around bothered me, but I quickly learned that sound wasn’t as much of a disruptor as light.
Since then, I’ve been a faithful sleep mask person. I don’t think I’ve gone a single night in the past 11 years without wearing one, and it’s revolutionized sharing a room. Every roommate and person I’ve shared a hotel room with since has been low-key delighted that they can keep the lights on until whenever (or waking up whenever) without fear of keeping or waking me up.
But more importantly, I’ve been low-key delighted at how well I sleep with a mask on. That’s no coincidence: light inhibits melatonin production, which has been proven to make falling and staying asleep more difficult. It’s such a simple piece of cloth, but its effect on my sleep (and life!) have been great.