Wearing an eye mask during overnight sleep improves episodic learning and alertness

Ambient light can influence sleep structure and timing. We explored how wearing an eye mask to block light during overnight sleep impacts memory and alertness, changes that could benefit everyday tasks like studying or driving. In Experiment 1, ninety-four 18–35-year-olds wore an eye mask while they slept every 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. This revealed superior episodic encoding and an improvement on alertness when using the mask. In Experiment 2, thirty-five 18–35-year-olds used a wearable device to monitor sleep with and without the mask. This replicated the encoding benefit and showed that it was predicted by time spent in slow-wave sleep. Our findings suggest that wearing an eye mask during overnight sleep can improve episodic encoding and alertness the next day.

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