Normally we wouldn’t review something as simple as an eye mask – our focus has been towards consumer electronic products in the sleep technology field. However, the Manta Sleep Mask, whilst not exactly ‘hi-tech’, is a refreshing and innovative take on an old, outdated classic, the humble airline eye mask.
After seeing lots of rave reviews, we wanted to see what the fuss was about this new kid on the block, and exactly how the founders could innovate on something as simple as a slip of fabric attached to an elastic strap. So here’s our review of the Manta Sleep Mask V2…. [spoiler – we liked it!]
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Manta is a premium quality ‘modular’ eye mask for sleeping in bed and when travelling. Featuring removable eye cups for infinite adjustment, true 100% blackout, and a range of customizable options to suit different sleep needs, whether you’re on a plane, you sleep on your back or your side. As well as the standard version, Manta offers a range of different product models with options for cooling/warming eyecup, aromatherapy and a therapeutic weighted sleep mask.
Disappointed by the flimsy, ineffective design of the standard airline sleep, in 2015, entrepreneur Mark Zhang and a team of product designers and industrial engineers, took it to task to reinvent the concept of the sleep mask, and create a best-in-class product in terms of comfort, adjustability and blocking out light.
Two years later, after raising nearly $750k via on Kickstarter and Indiegogo, the Manta Sleep Mask was launched, selling tens of thousands, and garnering hundreds of 5-star reviews on Amazon.
Since launching, the company has iterated to a second-generation design of the mask, and expanded to offer a range of different mask options, accessories and complementary sleep products.
Features and Specifications
- Removable/adjustable foam eyecups
- 100% blackout
- No pressure on the eyes
- Breathable cotton velour strap
- Snag-free micro hook velcro/fleece
- Weighs 90g (3.2 oz)
- Extra eye-pads/headbands/accessories available separately
- Price from $29.99 from Manta Sleep website
- the only sleep mask I’ve used to achieve true 100% blackout
- fits any size head
- no pressing on the eyes
- travel friendly
- probably not great for stomach sleepers
- need to fasten securely to ensure night-long blackout
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As you can imaging, the package that arrived in the mail was extremely lightweight, with the mask weighing less than 100 g. The packaging is pleasant and well designed – a long – rectangular plastic sleeve, with orange and blue branding – and some helpful diagrams on the rear.
A small gripe, but I wished that the box could have dispensed with the plastic and used cardboard instead to make the whole thing a little more sustainable and environmentally friendly. A cardboard exterior could work perfectly well, and in my opinion would even make the packaging design more attractive and marketable. Just a note in case the Manta team are checking in on this!
Inside the box we have a black mesh carry case which, hidden inside, there’s a small velcro-fastened pocket with a pair of included foam earplugs. These might seem like small detail, but the whole design experience is very practical and well thought out.
For instance, one of the times I find sleep masks most useful is when flying. Because I’m usually carrying a laptop, phones, earbuds, cables, etc etc – my sleep mask often gets buried and tangle amidst all of my travel gadgets, and if I’ve brought some foam earplugs, these things are the first to get lost.
When you’re wedged into a window seat on a plane, with no elbow room at all, there’s nothing more frustrating than having to rummage around in the bottom of a backpack for your earplugs and mask. So having a handy, compact travel bag, with a separate place for your earplugs is actually very handy.
The mesh travel pouch also functions as a wash bag when your Manta needs a clean. Just pop the mask into the pouch, zip it up and toss it into the laundry basket for your next wash cycle.
Upgrades and accessories
Manta have been very clear from the start that the brand represents not just a single product, but a range of accessories and upgrade so you can tailor your sleep mask experience to your individual preference. So, as well as the standard version that we’re reviewing here, Manta also offers five more headband styles, designed with specific features and applications. They are:
- Manta Slim Mask – slim, lightweight alternative to standard mask
- Manta Cool Mask – cooling eye pads to alleviate tired, puffy eyes & sooth sinuses
- Manta Warm Mask – designed to moisturize and refresh dry, irritated eyes & release muscle tension
- Manta Aroma Mask – targeted ‘scent vents’ for aromatherapy to relieve tension and stress
- Manta Weighted Mask – induces relaxation with gentle pressure application on relaxation points on your face
But as well as offering different product variations, you can also choose to replace components and even mix it up if you like. This is where the ‘modular’ element fits in. So you can purchase replacement headbands or eye-pieces or combine all the elements for example to have a weighted eye mask with cooling features. Check out the Manta website for more details
Design and First Impressions
Straight out of the box, Manta’s aesthetics come across as pleasingly designed, reasonably minimalistic apart from the orange stitched logo graphic in the centre of the headband. This newer, second version of the mask has a 3-tone colour scheme, instead of dark/black colours throughout, V2 now has a light grey headband, darker grey eyepieces, and black reserved for the inside of the headband.
I prefer this grey/black combo than the previous monochrome look. The colour scheme looks a bit classier, plus, with the light grey tones, it’s easier to see when the mask has picked up dirt along the way and needs to be popped into the wash.
The materials feel really nice, and according to the company’s website this was a result of trying out dozens of different combinations of fabrics and foams. The grey exterior of the headband is soft to the touch, but also feels hard-wearing. Inside the headband however, Manta have used different materials for the parts that are actually in contact with your head. I’m not sure what it actually is, but the interior strap is some sort of artificial approximation of velvet – extremely soft and luxurious to the touch – nice!
One other design consideration is the rear fastener. If you’ve got long or curly hair, you may, in the past, have had to wrangle with velcro fasteners tangling with your locks. Manta’s design team took this into consideration and have used a ‘micro-hook’ velcro fasteners, extremely strong, but too small to cause snagging in your hair at night.
What makes the Manta Sleep Mask different to all its competitors are the removable foam eyecups. It’s quite a simple innovation, but a really effective one, so it surprising that no-one has taken this approach before.
Essentially the eyecups consists of two ovoid rings of memory foam, encased in very soft to the touch, breathable fabric, with one side containing the stitched velcro attachment pad.
The cleverness in this design is that the eyecups create a ‘pocket’ for your eye to sit in, meaning that even when wearing the mask, you can open and shut your eyes fully, with no pressure on your eyeball, and no hinderance if you’ve got long eyelashes.
This is an important consideration, because one gripe I have with the thin, generic type airline masks, is that ‘scratchy’ uncomfortable feel when you try and open your eyes. To achieve ‘zero eye pressure’ the Manta eye pieces make the sleep mask thicker than most of its competitors and measure about 1cm or half and inch to the depth of the mask.
The eye cups are removable so that they can be positioned anywhere along the front edge of the mask, giving you infinite adjustment options. This is a nice approach, and means that whether you’ve got a tiny head or a huge dome, Manta is a one-size fits all solution.
As we mentioned earlier, most of our reviews are for sophisticated electronic sleep gadgets, so in comparison, there’s not a great deal to be written about the user experience when it comes to the Manta Sleep Mask, but here are my thoughts so far.
First off, hats off to the team with regards to choice of materials. At around 30 bucks, this isn’t exactly a luxury purchase, but then again, it’s at the higher end of the price spectrum for a sleep mask. So you’d expect the materials to be relatively luxurious, but also utilitarian, in the sense that this is something you may need to use on a practical basis every night.
In this respect the choice of fabrics, foams and fasteners seem spot on, and Manta excels in the comfort stakes, whilst also giving the impression of durability and practicality.
So, trying on Manta for the first time is a very soothing experience. Whereas most sleep masks feel like you’re wrapping a blindfold in front of your eyes, Manta is more akin to two ring-shaped uber-soft pillows resting gently above your eyes.
And once you’ve adjusted the velcro attachments to your exact fit, the combination of a complete blackout experience is almost womb-like – not that I remember being in the womb! Point is, the combination of sensory deprivation and the lack of claustrophobia from zero eye-pressure feels incredibly relaxing and conducive to falling asleep or taking a power-nap.
Some reviewers have complained that they didn’t get on with the eye-cup design and found them uncomfortable and difficult to adjust to their heads, but I found the opposite. In fact, as a big fan and advocate of power-naps when I have to travel or work later in the day, I really looked forward to using the mask as a means to enhance the potential of a snatched 20 minute power nap.
At night-time it’s the same thing. I don’t always wear a sleep mask at night, but sometimes if I’d had a late night and know I’ll be waking long after sunrise, I’ll put a mask on to prevent the early sun interrupting my morning lie-in.
I had no problems wearing Manta all in bed. I was slightly concerned that the foam padding around the eyes would feel too suffocating as I’m a relatively hot sleeper (aka sweaty!), but the mask was fine and after drifting off didn’t notice it at all.
The blackout experience
The blackout, it has to be said is superb. Without a doubt, head and shoulders above any other sleep mask I’ve tried. It’s so good that a couple of time I’ve put the mask on at night with all the bedroom lights on and drifted off without even realising the lights were still on.
It’s a complete sensory shutdown. No light leakage from the corners, no opaqueness from the eye pieces, just black, like wandering deep into a mountain cave and then your flashlight batteries run out.
One tiny note of criticism, and that’s to do with side sleeping. I personally found Manta to be no different to any other sleep mask when I was sleeping on my side. But I did notice that unless I had the headband secured reasonably tightly, the eye pieces would move around ever so slightly, just enough to spoil that complete 100% blackout scenario. It’s far from a deal-breaker however, just remember that if you move around a lot in your sleep, to fasten the head-strap as securely as you can withstand and you’ll have no issues.
OK, I get it, it’s just a sleep mask right, but we think Manta have made something special – incorporating the best elements of product design, innovation and simplicity. The comfort and blackout capabilities of the Manta Sleep Mask are unrivalled in our experience, and, combined with the ability to swap out accessories, puts the Manta Sleep Mask in a league of its own. Highly recommended!