Windows and deep sleep don’t mix. They have a tendency to let in ambient noise, REM-disrupting light, or both. Not everyone wants to wake up with the sunrise, and leaving a crack in the window for a natural breeze is basically an invitation to be burgled. Instead, seal it shut and sleep better with blackout shades.
Blackout shades are extra thick window shades built to not just deaden blaring street lights, but block out light altogether, making the bedroom a fortress of darkness. A tad scary after a few chapters of Stephen King, but excellent for deep sleep. The thick materials are also great for keeping warm air out and cool air in during the hotter summer months.
“Our sleep is very much affected by light and the full day and night cycles of a day which have light and darkness,” says Dr. Laura Purdy, a Nashville-based army medicine and telehealth sleep specialist. “The natural rhythms in our bodies adjust to cycles of darkness and light naturally and from a young age. Too much light can create difficulties both falling asleep and staying asleep.”
Blackout shade pricing depends on the quality of the shade and the number of windows being covered. They can cost as little as 80 cents all the way up to $5 to $10 per square foot. That’s more than the average sleep mask, but for those who can install something permanent the benefits of deeper sleep are well worth the cost.
What the Experts Say
According to Dr. Shelby Harris, Director of Sleep Health at Sleepopolis, it’s worth it to go all-in when investing in blackout shades.
“The room should be as dark as possible for the best sleep quality,” said Harris. “Don’t just look for room-darkening or light-filtering shades. Instead, look for light-blocking altogether. If you have a fear of sleeping in the dark, then a little night light is fine, but for the vast majority of people, sleeping in a totally dark room is ideal.”
Why is complete darkness best for sleep? Every human body runs on a 24-hour clock. After a day’s worth of waking hours, when it gets dark outside, the pineal gland releases melatonin, otherwise known as the hormone of darkness, which helps with falling and staying asleep. This helps regulate the body’s circadian rhythm. The more a bedroom can mimic a pitch-black night, the better for deep sleep.
The caveat is that, eventually, it’s time to wake up, and natural light — or lack thereof — plays a key role in not just getting up but falling asleep the next night. To keep effective blackout shades from becoming a liability when it’s time to rise and shine, it may be possible to consider tools like sunrise alarm clocks that gradually increase light in a room at an appointed time to help with smooth transitions into the next day. Getting exposure to natural sunlight early in the morning is also key. “Since our bodies rely on light signals for controlling our sleep-wake cycle, having a room completely blocked from light may make waking up naturally difficult,” said Purdy. “Those experiencing anxiety may feel trapped or even experience feelings of claustrophobia in such conditions, so it’s important to find your ideal sleep environment. Finding an effective balance is critical — one that allows you to sleep soundly and fall asleep easily while also rising easily each morning.”
Purdy also cautions that while tools like room-darkening window treatments can help people sleep better, those who chronically struggle with sleep should consult a doctor.
“Symptoms that suggest chronic lack of sleep include difficulty getting or staying asleep on three or more nights per week over a three-month period,” she said. “Consult your doctor if fatigue or difficulty focusing are affecting daily activities, as these could indicate an underlying disorder needing treatment.”
Redi Shade Original Blackout Pleated Paper Shade
We know what you’re thinking and the answer is yes: these Redi Shade blackout shades are made of paper, but that doesn’t make them any less effective. They’re a consistent #1 best seller on Amazon and block 99 percent of light, providing glare reduction and UV protection all while improving sleep.
They can also be installed in seconds without the use of tools. These shares are also cordless, which not only provides a clean look but is also a great option if child safety is a concern.
BEST FOR NOISE REDUCTION
NICETOWN 100% Blackout Curtain Panels
Who It’s For: Urban-dwellers with ambulances, drunk bar fights, and plenty of ambient street light standing in the way of a good night’s sleep.
Why It’s Great: These draperies are constructed with two layers of triple-weave blackout fabric, allowing them to absorb nearly twice as much sound as standard single-layered drapes.
There’s More: They are also effective at balancing room temperature by insulating against summer heat and winter chill.
BEST FOR CLASSY AND CASUAL VIBE
DEZ Furnishings Cordless Blackout Cellar Shade
Who It’s For: Those who want a handsome custom-cut mini blind.
Why It’s Great: These blackout shades are available in six different colors and dozens of different sizes. Once an order is placed, DEZ Furnishing custom cuts the shades to the specified size and ships them out within three days.
There’s More: Shades can be mounted inside or outside the window frame, and all mountain hardware is included.
BEST FOR FORMAL SPACES
NICETOWN Blackout Curtains
Who It’s For: Those with tall windows or who hate mini blinds. Or both.
Why It’s Great: Nicetown blackout curtains are available in 50 different colors, so there’s a high chance of finding something that matches an aesthetic.
There’s More: These curtains arrive thread trimmed, wrinkle-free, and ready to hang. They are also machine washable when it’s time to spruce them back up a bit.
BEST FOR PEOPLE WHO HATE CHANGE
DriftAway Thermal Insulated Blackout Curtain Liner
Who It’s For: People who don’t want to entirely redo their window treatments.
Why It’s Great: DriftAway’s liners sit discreetly behind curtains and drapes to add room-darkening capabilities without the hassle of compromising on a preferred look. Hung to curtain rods by 16 detachable rings, they can be put up without the hassle of removing existing drapery.
There’s More: This liner is available in lengths of up to 90” for those who need to cover tall windows or entire doors.
BEST FOR covering windows
Total Blackout Window Film
Who It’s For: Renters who want a quick solution.
Why It’s Great: Because this film adheres through the magic of static cling, it leaves no residue when removed. Just peel it off, and the windows are immediately back to their original state.
There’s More: An ultra-white exterior surface helps keep rooms cool by reflecting sunlight.
Frequently Asked Questions About Blackout Shades
How much do blackout shades cost?
Are blackout shades difficult to install?
Bracketed mini blinds are the most difficult to install, as they require an electric drill, maneuvering in tight spaces, and the added pressure of knowing that drill holes and screws leave behind permanent marks.
Will blackout shades make my room pitch black?
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