Having a completely dark space to sleep in is crucial to great sleep. Creating that completely blacked-out space isn’t hard, but there are a few ways to go about it!
You don’t want to miss:
The reason your children (and you!) need a completely dark space to sleep in
A few ways (inexpensive and not-so-inexpensive ways) to blackout the bedroom
How to make your blackout solution look good from the outside and the inside!
PLUS… Other areas to consider in the room that brings in light.
Links and resources:
Links to products:
Blackout EZ Covers (affiliate link)
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Today we are going to be talking about the importance of having a completely dark, blacked-out bedroom when you or your little one is sleeping, why that's important, and then some easy ways to make that possible, no matter what your budget is.
This episode is brought to you by the perfect sleep environment checklist that not only tells you what you need to do to create the perfect sleep environment but how to create the perfect sleep environment to grab your free checklist. Go to goodnightfamilies.com/room
Why a completely dark room?
All of us have this internal clock known as the circadian rhythm and it controls our natural wake-sleep cycle. Light is the most important external factor in the setting of that rhythm. (1)
Before electricity, we all slept when it was dark and then we woke up when it was light. When electricity entered into the scene, we started staying up much later and getting up much earlier. I don't think we really realize how much light pollution there is in our world. This past weekend we went through Hurricane Ian and living on the coast of North Carolina, we didn't get too badly affected by it but we did lose power for a little bit. Losing the power at night showed how much darker it is when there is zero power versus having electricity still on with the lights off in the house. When the power’s on, there's still light coming in through the windows from our neighbor's outside lights, the streetlights, and surrounding areas. It's amazing how much brighter it is just by having electricity.
Back to the science of it, in response to darkness, our pineal gland produces the hormone melatonin (which is happily named the sleepy hormone). I'm sure that you've heard of melatonin. (I actually have another podcast episode all about what melatonin is and my thoughts on supplemental melatonin.)
But for this episode, we're just talking about how to naturally produce it, and having that darkness is what signals to the pineal gland to produce that melatonin. Any sort of exposure to light before bed or even during sleep blocks the production of that melatonin and therefore can interfere with our sleep. Think of the light from the sun, the moon, house lights, or streetlights, any light can affect it. Even with our eyes closed, light can be registered through closed lids. Also, as we've mentioned before, when it comes to sleep cycles, we all have partial arousals throughout our night of sleep and naps (most naps are going to contain at least two sleep cycles). If during those partial arousals, our little one sees that there is light, they're gonna be like, “Oh, I'm done sleeping! It's time for me to wake up!” No, no, that's not the case. So, to help them sleep better and longer, a completely dark room will be really helpful (and it's the same for us).
How to blackout a bedroom
There are a few ways that you can completely blackout a bedroom. You can find all of these things in my free checklist for the “perfect” sleep environment. These ideas range from things that you probably already have in your house (but may not look that great from the outside) to things that are very pricey but will last you a lifetime and look great inside and out.
Any option used to completely black out a room needs to be completely up against the window or in a place where there is zero space between the actual window and the outside of the window frame so there's no light coming in around the edges. Some of these options are great for travel, too!
Blacking out the window's light
Starting with the very inexpensive option, tin foil or black trash bags, cardboard or foam board taped to the window with painter's tape. When my oldest was a baby, we used black trash bags. From the outside looking in it was the window, then the mini blinds, the taped-up black trash bags around the window frame, then a blackout curtain to cover the black trash bags. This way you couldn't see the black trash bags from the inside of the house or the outside of the house because there were mini blinds between the window and the trash bags. It worked perfectly fine because there wasn't a gap between the trash bag and the light coming from the window since I wrapped the bags to the outer edge of the window frame and taped them there.
Another option is to use static cling window film. You will obviously see this from the outside because it is sticking directly to the window. But it doesn't look bad. You can even get the window film that's black on the inside and white on the exterior side.
Take a blackout curtain and then Velcro it to the wall around the window frame. From the outside you won't be able to tell and if you could tell it wouldn't look bad because it is the blackout curtain. Then, to make it look nice from the inside, hang an additional outer blackout curtain, so you have a double curtain. This is the option we use for our oldest since he doesn't nap anymore and we just need to use the blackout solution for nighttime. With this, we can easily open his window during the daytime to let the light in.
Another similar option to that is to use Blackout EZ Covers. This is a blackout solution that you can purchase that provides you with all the materials to create that very similar blackout solution as option 3. (Just a heads up, that's an affiliate link.)
Use blackout shades like the paper kind that you could get like on Amazon, and a blackout curtain. So again, it's going to be that like to layer another option for a blackout solution.
With this option, you won't need to do anything to the windows. The SlumberPod isn't just great for travel, it is definitely a great option at home, especially if you're room-sharing. This is a great way to create for them a blackout space and give them some privacy. Recently come out with what's called the HomeBase which makes it so the SlumberPod fits perfectly over a full-size crib. The traditional SlumberPod only fits over a pack-and-play, which is totally fine to use a pack-and-play at home, you don't have to have a full-sized crib. But if you have a full-size crib and you want to use the SlumberPod full time at home, the HomeBase wraps around the bottom part of the crib allowing the traditional SlumberPod to fit over the top of the full-size crib. So if you already have a SlumberPod, you only need to buy the HomeBase! It is not attached to the crib at all at any point and but it is secure. This isn't a great option if you are struggling with a child that is climbing out, but if they happen to climb out with the HomeBase and/or SlumberPod on, they are perfectly safe! (Use code GOODNIGHTFAMILIES20 to get $20 off your purchase of a SlumberPod!)
And then the big mama-jama option is what's called Indow Windows Sleep Panels. These are ones where they have a representative or consultant... Somebody comes to your home and measures your windows to have custom panels made. These panels pop into the window frame and then easily pop out. These are definitely the option only if you're going to be in your home forever since they're custom-made to those specific windows.
Blacking out the light around the door
Another spot we need to think about when it comes to light coming into the room is around the bedroom door. Often there are gaps on the bottom and around the edges of the bedroom door where light can come through. And typically, our children go to bed much sooner than we do, so we don't want to have to put them to bed and have to turn off every single light in the house. So, let's have a blackout solution around the bedroom door.
One quick and easy option for around the bedroom door is a thick twin sheet - it actually fits perfectly around the bedroom door. This will help block the light and it won't be too thick either to prevent some airflow if that is a concern for you.
If that's not a concern, you can definitely use a draft stopper at the bottom because typically around the bottom is where most of the light comes through. And then you can also use weatherstripping around the frame.
A blackout curtain hanging on the outside of the bedroom door is another option. (This is what we do.) We just have blackout curtains hanging in our hallway and it helps block the light a little bit.
Hiding the "on" lights
The last thing we need to think about when it comes to light in the bedroom is electronics' "on" lights. One device is some form of a monitor in their room so that we can hear them when they call out for us. Whether they're sleep trained or not, they are going to call for us in the night at some point and we want to be able to hear them and be aware of what's going on.
A lot of monitors and any other sorts of devices have an "on" light that is not essential to the function of the device. So my recommendation is to take a black piece of electrical tape and cover up the light. When you have a room that is completely pitch black in every other sense of the word, then you have this tiny blue or green light, it's going to be so bright that you'll actually be able to see your hand in front of your face.
And that is our litmus test - sit in your child's room and you let your eyes adjust as much as they possibly can and then you put your hand in front of your face. If you can see your hand, then it's time to investigate where light is penetrating through.
Well, that's all I have for you today. I hope that you found it helpful. And if you were struggling with finding ways to blackout your child's room without spending a fortune, I hope that you found a few tips in here and if there was a tip that you know that I didn't share, I'd love to hear that and anybody else I'm sure would love to hear it too.