Eye pillows are often items we reserve for a trip to the spa, but for many of us they are not a part of our regular, at home self-care routine. However the humble eye pillow boasts a number of health benefits both physical and mental which may surprise you!
Many of the health benefits provided by dream pillows are derived from its influence on the vagus nerve. The vagus nerve is one of twelve carnival nerves which begins in the brain and runs down the back of the neck to the heart, where it stems down further into the digestive system. The vagus nerve is a major regulating component of the parasympathetic nervous system, which controls the relaxation response and the body’s ability to relax. It oversees vital physical functions such as mood regulation, immune response, digestion, and heart rate.
Eye pillows apply pressure to the eyeballs, lowers the heart rate and stimulates the oculocardiac reflex. Pressure here and on the forehead between the eyeballs also stimulates the vagus nerve putting the mind and body into a state of deep rest. This creates a state of calm which allows the parasympathetic nervous system to be triggered. Practicing this repeatedly helps train the body to be in a more stress-resilient state and teaches the nervous system to be less reactive. It is for this reason that eye pillows can help alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Eye pillows have the added benefit of cutting out visual stimulus and light, sending a neurological signal to your brain that it is an appropriate time to shift to resting function. Eye pillows thus help to tame racing thoughts and can help calm the mind and prepare it for sleep. For this reason eye pillows help prepare the mind for meditation and helps ease one into deep savasana.
The light-blocking effects of a dream pillow combined with the relaxative properties help to relieve headaches as well, including migraines. By cutting our excess stimuli and inducing relaxation, eye pillows address some of the major causes of headaches. Eye pillows allow muscles to relax, blood flow to regulate, which allows headache relief to begin to set in.
Covering the eyes also helps to relieve hot, itchy eyes from allergies or prolonged exposure to blue light. Allowing the eyes time to rest in complete darkness helps counteract excessive light exposure. Eye pillows can also be refrigerated for added benefit in reducing swelling and inflammation from allergies.
From an Ayurveda perspective, eye pillow placement activates the marma points (energy centers) around the eyes. The marma points promote relaxation and healing. For more information on marma points follow our blog on the subject.
Lastly, but certainly not least, eye pillows often come with lavender or eucalyptus inside which adds the therapeutic bonus of aromatherapy. Both herbal essences are great for relieving headaches. Lavender also helps to calm the nervous system.
It’s quite incredible that something as simple as an eye pillow has such powerful benefits for self-healing. These many benefits show that eye pillows should not just be reserved for spa sessions but instead should be regularly integrated into daily life to promote optimal health and stress resilience.
Try an eye pillow next time you are in savasana, before you lay down to go to sleep, during restorative yoga or reclined meditation, or anytime you are feeling anxious or depressed