How to make a room dark enough for sleep

How to make a room dark enough for sleep

At first thought it may seem quite easy to make a room dark enough for sleep. And I do suggest dark, really dark, for sleep. Because even the tiniest sliver of light coming through the curtains can stimulate us to wake up. So if you, or your child or other family member needs to sleep during the day (or early in the evening, or later in the morning) when it’s light outside, keep reading. Here’s what I’ve found works best to make a room dark enough for sleep.

What do I mean by dark enough?

But first, what do I mean by dark enough for sleep? If you’ve worked with me or followed me on Facebook for a while, chances are you’ve already heard me say the darker the room, the better.

Ideally the room is so dark that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. That’s a 10/10 on the darkness scale. And that is what I recommend for babies and adults alike.

But, let’s face it, most of us don’t live in homes that are fitted with good quality window coverings. Indeed, until recently, if it weren’t for Venetian blinds it’d be curtains for all of us! Sorry, bad Dad joke. Typically, standard curtains and Venetian blinds (or any blinds) just don’t cut the mustard.

The likelihood of your current window coverings blocking out 100% of daylight is slim. Even custom-made “black out blinds” tend to be fitted incorrectly, leaving light coming around the tops, sides or bottom of the windows. It’s not really dark enough for sleep. And when you’ve paid a fortune to have these made to measure, it’s pretty frustrating to say the least!

So, I get it, it’s really hard to get a 10/10 for darkness. That’s where I suggest a minimum of an 8 or 9 out of 10 on the subjective darkness scale. If it’s lighter than that, and you’re having any sleep issues, I DO recommend making it darker. Dark enough for sleep.

Do you need to increase the darkness level in your room? Step one is to figure out how you’d currently rate it during the day.

How to figure out the daytime darkness level

Check out the room in question, during the day – ideally at the time the sun is streaming in the windows. Then go ahead and close those curtains and shut the door. Looks darker already right?

But wait for it! The trick here is to ensure you wait long enough for your eyes to become accustomed to the darkness. On average this will take 9-10 minutes. Use that time to stay quiet, contemplate the universe (or what’s for dinner) and breathe. Please resist the urge to reach for your phone, as that also emits light (the worst type of light) and won’t help your eyes adjust.

Now, when your 10 minutes of meditation are up, what score are you going to give the darkness of the room? Remember 10/10 means you can’t see your hand in front of your face – with your eyes open. Oh and while you’re there in the room, look for any internal light sources too. Are there any motion sensors or lights that tell you something is on (the baby monitor or heat pump for example). Or even your digital alarm clock (does anyone use those anymore?), is that glowing?

If you’re rating the room anything below an 8/10 (or even if you are rating it an 8, but you know you’re sensitive to light). Look for ways to block the light to make it dark enough for sleep.

Block that light!

If you already have black-out blinds or curtains, and it’s just a small sliver of light coming around the tops or bottoms of the window, you may be able to call on your inner Macguyver and use towels (or duct tape?) to cover the offending areas so it’s dark enough for sleep.

If the light is coming around the sides, sometimes Velcro or some form of tape is all you need to keep the sides attached to the wall.

Actually, I was joking about the duct tape (it’s important you keep the resale value of your property high), but tape can be really handy if you have little sensor lights from appliances that you want to cover to make the room dark enough for sleep. Just cover the light part with the tape (making sure the light doesn’t emit heat – don’t cover anything that’s likely to go up in flames, please)..

If your curtains are standard ones and the light comes through them (and the sides), you can also try and get creative. While it’s not pretty, it can do the job. This is where you can consider blocking the window itself. Using cardboard for example. Do be wary of using tinfoil or black rubbish sacks that will stick or melt onto the window in high heat. Although you could use them temporarily in cooler weather.

Or, if you don’t mind the look from the room side, you can use a heavier blanket to rig up a second curtain. Make sure this is bigger than the window itself. But this can get painful when you need to get up high enough move it each time you want to open the curtains. Dark enough for sleep, ideally shouldn’t be painful or time consuming.

What about those temporary black out blinds?

Yes, there are temporary black out blinds you can purchase, that say they solve the issue. I’ve even bought them myself. But to be honest, I was really disappointed. Especially considering the cost of the products. They rarely make the room dark enough for sleep.

There are (narrow) block-out curtains you can hang to a window via suction cups. And the curtain itself does block light. But you still have the problem of light getting in around the sides and bottom of the window. Reviews are mixed also. Some reviews say they fall down, or the suckers need to be soaked to be malleable enough to put up…

Or there are the pop-up shades, that again use suction cups to attach to the window. They sit behind your current curtains. And these can work well. But you need to have them bigger than the window because they have rounded corners. So if you have a square window, and it’s not sitting bigger, guess where the light comes through…

Honestly, I haven’t found a product in New Zealand that does a good enough job for me to recommend it. That’s not to say a product won’t work for you – especially if you only have one little window, that is flush to the wall.  But when you have recessed windows or pelmets or architecturally designed windows, well…

And, on the off chance that you do have a product I haven’t seen yet, please reach out and let me know about it! I really want to be able to recommend products and services that really do what they promise to do.

Here are a couple of options I can recommend

Don’t despair, it’s not all doom and gloom if you want something that looks good and does a great  job of making a room dark enough for sleep.

The permanent fix

For a permanent fix, you need to know about Blackout EZ .com. This will give you the 10/10 on the darkness scale. It’s easy DIY (Do It Yourself: you can cut it to measure), it fits against the window using Velcro tape, so it’s perfect for recesses or awkward trimmings. And the tape is discreet. It goes up easily and comes down simply. You can still open your windows, and it looks good. And have I already said it works!? Yes, this product gives you a room dark enough for sleep.

I’m not going to tell you all about it here, but if you are interested, please check out the website and watch the videos to see how it fits. Then investigate the best product and size for you (there’s even a reflect sun / cooling option).  This stuff is cool (rad, “everything is awesome”, sic, and probably a few other choice words I’m not “cool” enough to know). If you purchase via this link, I do receive a small kickback, which is much appreciated.

Are there any drawbacks to Blackout EZ? 

As a product, I haven’t found any drawbacks, and they’re improving all the time. However, you need to note that this product comes from the United States (US) and needs to be purchased in US currency. So keep an eye on the exchange rate. The pricing of the product itself, even taking the exchange rate into account, isn’t too bad (it’s actually pretty good). It’s comparable to the temporary products you can buy here. BUT, you also need to pay shipping costs. And then wait for it to be delivered.

Honestly, over getting someone in to fit customised black-out blinds that don’t block out everything. You’ll find this could be a much better and cheaper option.

The temporary fix

If you’re after a temporary fix, something that easily comes down or something that can easily travel with you – check out Sleepy Sundays. These recyclable blackout sheets use static cling to “stick” to the window and guarantee100% darkness.  So quick and easy and again, dark enough for sleep! These ship from Australia, however I often have some in stock for NZ clients. You can purchase directly from me via “shop” on my website.

Whether you’re teaching your baby to self settle, trying to extend nap length, working shift’s and need to sleep during the day, have a home movie theatre, or are just sensitive to light (and lets face it, there’s far too much light pollution around today). You need a dark (really dark) bedroom.

And if you already have a dark (really dark) bedroom, but your child still isn’t sleeping well. Please book in a free mini sleep evaluation via phone call. I’d love to help. And if you aren’t already, please follow along on Facebook or Instagram for fun facts and sleep tips.