Sleeping in the dark is one of the best ways to get quality rest all night long. Here’s how to darken your bedroom for better sleep.
When it’s dark outside, you feel sleepy.
When it’s bright outside, it’s hard to lay down to go to sleep!
Your body is just naturally designed to respond to light and darkness.
So why are you fighting your body’s natural rhythms and then getting upset when you can’t get good sleep?
Modern Day Struggle for Sleep
Let’s be honest, we all don’t mean to mess up our internal body clock. It’s just normal life.
Watching TV before bed. Checking email or social media one last time before falling asleep. Having an alarm clock programmed to wake up too early in the morning and start the routine all over again.
But circadian rhythms are a real thing. It’s your 24-hour internal clock. They are the natural rhythms that tell you when to get sleepy. Your brain is responsible for circadian rhythms. When your eyes see light (or dark), they send signals to your hypothalamus in your brain.
If your eyes sense darkness, your hypothalamus tells your body to release melatonin, which helps you sleep.
So if your brain isn’t getting the correct signals to help you fall asleep because of too much light in your bedroom, how can you expect your body to get a good night’s rest?
In fact, a study has shown that being exposed to low levels of light in your bedroom while sleeping can lead to depression.
In order to have better sleep each and every night, we have to pay attention to our body’s most primal needs. Even in today’s modern society.
WELL Standard for Better Sleep
As a Certified WELL AP, I help people create living and working environments that foster good health.
One component of the WELL Standard focuses on lighting in a home or office. That’s because light is so important to good health. But too much can be a bad thing. WELL Standards focus on making sure that indoor lighting is natural, not too harsh and not too much glare.
But one other aspect of getting points to meet WELL certification can be avoiding light intrusion at night for better sleep. In fact, the WELL Standard encourages:
- Window Light Elimination (using blackout shades or shutters with 0% light transmittance and no light gaps in the perimeters)
- Shutting off lights on electronics
- Safe nighttime navigation with appropriate lighting
How to Darken Your Bedroom for Better Sleep
All three of the WELL Standard guidelines are oh, so important for a better night’s sleep! And there are many more that I think are important, too.
Even though you probably have some curtains or shades on your windows, there are a lot of opportunities to make your room even darker. Here’s the best tips how:
Pick the Right Curtain Rods
Curtain rods generally aren’t an item you give too much thought about. They’re not sexy. There aren’t that many styles to choose from.
If there were curtain rods already installed when you moved in to your place, you likely didn’t even change them out and just used what was there.
I totally get it.
My feelings were the same until I moved into a rental condo that had the most insane amount of light coming into the room at night. The bedroom was located in a central corridor, where the neighbor’s outdoor light shone all night into my bedroom. And the street lamps added even more light streaming in. I felt like I was living in Las Vegas!
I knew that with this light show every night, I was going to have to take every precaution to block out as much light as possible. Which is how I found wrap around room darkening curtain rods.
It doesn’t matter how much light your curtains will block out if there is a gap between the curtain and wall where light streams through.
Wrap around room darkening curtain rods eliminate the problem. They allow the curtains to be pulled against the wall. Even though it’s just an extra inch or two of coverage, it makes a BIG difference!
Some wrap around room darkening curtain rods I suggest:
- Umbra wrap around room darkening curtain rod (28 – 144 inches)
- Eclipse Room Darking Wrap Around Curtain Rod (28 – 120 inches)
- Urbanest Energy Saving Room Darkening Curtain Rod (28 – 144 inches)
I also love all of the wrap around curtain rods options on Wayfair. There are some really modern industrial looks, along with classic curtains rods that blend into your bedroom decor.
Black Out Curtains
Nearly 35% of Americans DON’T use bedroom curtains or shades to darken your bedroom, according to a National Sleep Foundation study.
Unless you live out in the woods, there’s probably some ambient light in your bedroom at night, from the moon shining or lights on the street.
Room darkening curtains and shades are especially important during the summer months, when the sun is out longer. Especially if you have kids whose bedtime might be before sunset.
Or if you live in northern climates where the sun is out for so long at night it’s even hard for adults to get to sleep.
And that light can really affect your sleep.
One of the best ways to reduce the light in your bedroom is by using curtains and shades. Especially black out curtains, which will dramatically eliminate the amount of ambient light coming into your bedroom.
What’s great is that black out curtains have come a long way from the first ones that were ugly but worked well.
Nowadays you can find designer colors and patterns in all sizes to match your bedroom design.
In fact, Wayfair has over 1,000 different styles of blackout curtains! There’s no excuse for not getting some!
What’s interesting is that black out curtains were really designed to keep solar heat outside of rooms to lower energy costs. By pulling the curtains shut during the hottest part of the day, when the sun was shining in rooms, you could reduce your air conditioning and cooling costs. With less sunshine, rooms wouldn’t get so hot and money would be saved.
Investing in black out curtains can be a smart way to reduce your cooling costs during warm weather months. But we’re focused on how to use black out curtains to help you sleep better!
Black out curtains and shades can be found everywhere now. In mass market retailers, online, in home décor stores and home improvement stores.
Blackout Roman Shades
And there are even black out roman shades if you don’t want (or can’t use) black out curtains.
In our old bedroom, the one window was right up to the corner of the wall. There was no way to install a curtain rod or hang curtains on the side of the window. We had to use roman shades that could be hung above the window, rather than to the sides.
So we purchased custom made black out roman shades through the Home Depot and really liked them. We got to choose the color of fabric (a soft teal blue to add some color) and the size.
However, keep in mind that roman shades still allow light to come in from the sides, unless you are installing them inside the window frame.
Make Your Own Blackout Curtains
You can even make your own blackout curtains. This is what I’ve done most often to combine my sense of design and the need for light blocking in the bedroom.
Light blocking curtain panel fabric is easy to buy and doesn’t cost too much. Either sew it to the back of existing curtains or make new curtains with your choice of fabric sewn to the black out fabric.
Electronics in the Bedroom
Electronics in your bedroom often have emitting lights. Whether it’s the glow from an alarm clock or a power indicator light on the cable box.
All of these tiny amounts of light add up to mess with your brain and circadian rhythms.
Plus, staring into a red power button light on the TV when you’re trying to get to sleep at night is just plain annoying.
Either unplug, move or mask the light coming from electronics in your bedroom such as:
- Alarm clock
- Charging cords
- Cable boxes
If you don’t need the item plugged in continuously, then unplug it.
Move an item so that you can’t see the charging light or power indicator light. For instance, move the cable box to a lower shelf or into a cabinet with closed doors. Charge your phone and electronics on the other side of the bedroom.
For necessary lights that come from electronics you can’t unplug or move, mask the light instead. Use electrical tape or gaffers tape to cover the indicator lights on electronics. Or drape an alarm clock with a washcloth to reduce the light.
Safety Lights in a Dark Bedroom
There is a lot to be said about how wonderful it is to get great sleep in a dark bedroom. But if you have to get up in the middle of the night, you might not be able to see well.
Older adults might also have a hard time adjusting to the darkness in a bedroom and it could be a safety concern.
Did you know that you can buy under-bed lights with motion detectors so that a soft light will illuminate the floor if you get out of bed? They are brilliant inventions!
We had this technology at a fancy hotel we stayed at years ago. It was so fun to put your feet on the floor by the bed and have lights come on! Today, you can buy an under bed motion activated light system for less than $25.
Other ways to safely enjoy a darkened bedroom while sleeping, but still have light when you need to move around are:
- Use a motion activated night light by your bed
- Put a night light in the bathroom or a hallway you would be using at night
- Keep a flashlight by your bed
Avoiding light exposure in your bedroom at night can be as simple as moving your bed.
If your bed is facing a source of light, such as a window or a door way where light is streaming in, then move it if you can.
Turn the bed to face another direction where you won’t be looking into the light as you go to sleep.
Close doors to a bathroom, hallway or closet where light might be coming in.
Turn Down the Lights in Your Bedroom
Just as important as a dark bedroom while you’re sleeping is low lighting levels before you go to sleep.
One bright overhead light for your bedroom isn’t a wise choice for getting your body prepared for better sleep.
Set yourself up for success by using task lights in your bedroom. A bedside lamp can give just enough light to read by or get ready for bed, without the harshness of overhead glare.
Lights used before going to sleep every night should be a lower wattage. This gives necessary illumination but not the brighter lights which can be energizing.
Dimmer switches on overhead lighting or lamps are smart ideas, too. They allow you to use the minimum amount of light that you need. You don’t need to be an electrician to install a dimmer switch. This dimmer switch just plugs in and instantly lets you dim table lamps and floor lamps.
There are a variety of lightbulbs that promise to help you get to sleep, too. Try switching out a light in your bedroom with a sleep-ready light like this one. Every little bit helps, especially if you read or craft before going to bed and need a light on.
If all else fails and you can’t make any changes to darken your bedroom, a good quality eye mask can be a simple solution.
Here’s even more help in getting a good night’s sleep:
- How to Declutter Your Bedroom For Better Sleep
- How to Afford a Non Toxic Bed
- Magnesium Topical Spray Recipe
- Gift Guide for Better Sleep
- Best Bedroom Plants for Better Sleep
- How to Make Your Bed More Comfortable
- Most Affordable Natural Latex Mattress
Download my Better Sleep Guide Ebook for diffuser essential oil blends, yoga poses for sleep, affirmations to say before bed, and a printable sleep tracker.