I was lucky enough to be sent a free Zzz sleep mask to try out. The premise behind the mask system is a simple, but novel one. Based on the thought that a lolling head causes neck discomfort and interrupted sleep, the mask both covers the eyes and holds the head upright. The sleep system has two parts: a large, thick, soft padded eye shade blocks out all the light, while a large strap loops around the back of your headrest and attaches to the eye shades. Your head is effectively bound in one position to the back of your seat while your eye shade prevents light seepage. It’s impossible for your head to flop from side to side, saving yourself from the embarrassment of napping on your neighbours’ shoulder or dangling out in the aisle.
I have to say, I loved the idea behind this product and I thought it had the potential to be a great space saver. It would eliminate the need to bring along separate sleep mask and pillow. I also loved that the sleep shade was so thick and soft. The free eye shades given out on the airplane tend to be thin and small, so this was definitely an upgrade!
Unfortunately, my theoretical love soon fell apart when I tried to put it into action on several long haul, overnight flights. While the strap system sounds simple enough (one adjustable strap to secure the mask to your head and one to secure your head to the seat) but for the life of me I could not figure it out. And I had a sheet of instructions! Why was there both Velcro and clips? I’m still not sure I had it right!
It also felt strange to loop the straps behind the headrest – and directly into the line of vision of the person sitting behind me. Few things are as territorial as an airline seat. The back of your seat is actually the front of someone else’s tiny nest! It felt weird to invade someone else’s space, even in the tiniest of ways, and even though I knew it was MY headrest, I’m sure my rear neighbours were suddenly wondering what the heck I was doing.
The straps caused even more problems when they were stuffed in my carryon bag – the Velcro grabbed onto everything, from my expensive silk and wool scarf (hello, snags and holes!) to the fabric of the bag itself. Getting it out felt like wrestling with an octopus!
I realize that head movement isn’t the main reason behind why most people don’t sleep well on airplanes. There are a whole host of other factors that contribute to poor rest and for me, personally, the poor quality cushioning and design of the seats means hips get sore, butts fall asleep and legs get restless. I can’t imagine how keeping my body in one position would help me sleep – if anything it would make more uncomfortable!
Last but not least, the mask – which I had such high hopes for – was really only comfortable when I was sitting straight up or lying flat. It was too stiff and the straps too uncomfortable to use as a regular sleep mask in bed or even as an airplane sleep mask if you were tilted to one side.
In short, I would only recommend the Zzz mask to someone whose favourite sleep position is to be straight up and down and whose biggest barrier to sleeping on airplanes is having their head move around. If you fall asleep easily and are likely to stay asleep so long as your drooping head doesn’t jerk you awake, this is the product for you. But everyone else should take a pass.