So you want to sleep better. Maybe you’ve heard that you should blackout your bedroom for a good night’s rest. But as I found out the hard way, no one tells you how to actually create the complete darkness needed for great sleep.
I spent years highly sensitive to light while sleeping. Even wearing an eye mask, the tiniest pinhole of light would wake me up. The usual advice of using blackout curtains helped slightly, but light still spilled in. I continued to wake through the night and rise with the sun no matter how exhausted I was. After years of suffering I had to find a solution.
The Better Blackout method saved my sleep. I developed it to meet the following criteria:
- All materials are cheap and easy to find at a local hardware store like Home Depot, or from Amazon Prime. You can even use this method when travelling.
- Complete darkness – not a single sliver of light will come through. You won’t know if it’s midnight or high noon outside. All gaps that could let light in will be eliminated.
Is the Better Blackout Method for you?
If you face any of these challenges, then this will be huge in sleeping and feeling better.
- Early awakening
- Tired when waking up, even after sleeping “enough” hours
- Need to sleep over 9 hours
- Chronic illness
- Shift worker
- Street lamps or other blue light sources near your bedroom
This method banished my years-long insomnia and was a critical game changer for my health. Now I sleep through the night and wake up rested, ready to tackle the day. I hope it will help you get amazing sleep too!
You will address 3 areas (in order of importance):
- This is not the only blackout method out there, but has accessible materials and has consistently worked for me.
- As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases from links in this post. This is at no extra cost to you but helps support my mission to bring you quality health information.
- Blackout curtains (must be black) – matching window width
- Paper blackout shades (must be black) – enough to cover the window and side window frames with two layers
- Black duct tape or wall-safe painters tape (not blue)
- Step ladder
- Foam insulation tape – 3/4″ x 7/16″ or 1/2″ x 3/8″ (depends on door frame design – see Part 2)
- Door draft stopper – length matching your door’s width
- Electric tape or black duct tape
Note: I recommend duct tape because the dark opaque color and stronger stick are better for blocking light. But if you are traveling or renting, then use wall-safe painters tape.
Optional shopping list:
Part 1 – Windows:
First, the window will be covered in two layers of paper blackout shades with borders taped to the window frame. Then, blackout curtains will add a third layer of light blockage.
What kind of window is this for?
These instructions are written to blackout a standard window with a wood panel frame around it, as shown below.
If your window is different, the same principles will apply, but the exact details will vary. If your bedroom has a large window making up part of or all of one side of the wall, then this method will not work. Such a large window is difficult to black out completely, and you may want to consider sleeping elsewhere.
1. Ensure your paper shades are the right width.
The sides of the paper shades should be covering the side window frames. If one shade is wider than your window, cut it. If your window is wide, use multiple shades. They should slightly overlap where they meet in the middle. Attach the shade’s adhesive strip along the front of the top window frame panel.
If your window does not have a raised frame, the general principle is attaching the shades at least several inches beyond the boundary of the window glass itself.
2. Cut the paper shades to the right height.
Leave them slightly longer than the window’s actual height, so they can be taped to the front of the bottom window frame panel.
3. Get your tape.
Tape the side edges of the shades to the window framing, so there are no spaces/gaps between the shade and the framing. Starting from the top on one side, slowly tape small sections (up to several inches) of the shade. Smoothly press against the window frame in a downward direction so there are no gaps, and keep taping until you reach the bottom window frame. Repeat for the other side. See steps 5 and 6 for photos of what this will look like.
4. (Optional) Insert safety pins every several inches along the tape.
This helps prevent the tape from lifting and creating gaps over time.
5. Tape the bottom.
Tape the shades to the front of the bottom window frame, similar to how you taped the sides. Press the tape down in a single direction from one side to another. You can add additional pieces of tape and push pins as I did here.
6. Repeat this process with a second layer of shades.
Attach the adhesive strip of the second set of shades higher up the window frame than you did the first time, to cover the gap between the first shades layer and the window frame. If you used push pins, then tape between these when taping the sides. Taping the bottom of the second layer is optional, so the shades don’t have to be cut for height like the first layer.
7. Tape along the top edge of the second shades layer.
Attach the tape so it folds over onto the top of the window frame. Close any gaps with the window frame. (Optional) Add safety pins every several inches along the top.
8. If your windows are wide enough to require multiple shades, then tape the second layer shades where they overlap.
9. Install the curtains on the curtain rod.
Use as many as needed to cover the whole window width. Blackout curtains generally include holding clips. If using multiple curtains clip them together where they meet in the middle.
If traveling, the curtains are optional.
10. (Optional) Tape (with wall mounting tape) the curtain edges to the walls.
This is only necessary if you have a lot of light outside your window and need to be careful about preventing leakage. You can also place black towels (using wall mounting tape) over the top between the curtain rod and the wall.
Part 2 – Door:
Foam insulation tape will be used to block light from the cracks between door and the door frame. A draft stopper will be stuffed under the door.
1. Attach the foam insulation tape to the door frame interior.
The exact size and placement of the tape will depend on your door frame design, particularly how much front to back space there is. Example #1 is for shallower door frames, while Example #2 is for deeper ones.
To experiment which placement is best for you, start with attaching a little section of tape. See which way best blocks light from that section of door frame. Look from inside the dark room, with a light source outside the door (sunlight or a hallway light). There should be a ring of light coming in from around the door, but a dark section where you placed the tape.
You want the tape flush with the closed door, but without getting caught in the door as it opens and closes. Make sure to fill in the corners.
If travelling, skip this step (the foam can be tricky to remove cleanly).
2. From inside your room, stuff the draft stopper under the door.
The space between the door and the floor should be fully occupied. Be careful that the sides are filled as well (these can be especially tricky. The black towels are another option here (though more prone to allowing gaps).
3. Make sure the draft stopper is fully inserted into the lower crack and goes through to the other side.
If you were looking at the door from outside the room you’d be able to see it sticking out.
Part 3 – Devices
Eliminating outside light sources doesn’t help if there’s still light inside the room! Device light sources will be removed or covered.
Common sources are:
- Computers, smartphones, tablets
- Smoke detectors
- Routers and modems
- Digital clocks
- Any electronic or digital device
1. Remove light-emitting devices from the bedroom, or power them off, when possible.
2. For any devices that must remain inside and stay on, cover the visible lights.
Use electric tape (or black duct tape). But this risks the tape coming loose, creating a light source. Removal is the best option.
Some other tips:
- Replace alarm clocks with versions that don’t constantly emit light.
- Smoke detectors have large lights, so you may need to use multiple layers of cut blackout shade pieces in addition to black tape. Coverage should be attached a couple of inches beyond the sides of the light, to prevent spillage.
- Smartphones are best turned off. Even in airplane mode some apps can still cause the screen to flash on. If you absolutely cannot turn your phone off, then have it outside the bedroom (this has other benefits too).
Now your room should be quite dark! But if you’re really light-sensitive, even tiny amounts can cause you problems. If so, you’ll need to troubleshoot your blackout job before you sleep, so you don’t wake up frustrated in the middle of the night.
Part 1 – Finding light sources:
1. Troubleshoot before night.
When there is still plenty of sunlight outside, light intrusion sources will be obvious.
2. Darken the room.
Stuff the draft stopper under the door, and turn the room lights off.
3. Close your eyes for 1-2 minutes.
This lets your pupils adjust to the dark, making it easier to spot sources of light leakage.
4. Open your eyes and look around.
The room should be dark enough that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. Any light sources will be obvious now that your pupils are accustomed to the dark.
Part 2 – Eliminating light sources:
1. Identify where light is coming in.
Be careful not to trip over anything! Light leakage will be from the three areas addressed. If it’s from your window or door frame, feel around to find the approximate spot and note it. If it’s from a device, note which one(s).
2. Turn the room lights back on.
Look back to where you noted the light. Here are some common problems:
- Windows: The tape has lifted up to create a gap between the shade edges and the window frame.
- Doors: The foam is misaligned, and not flush with the closed door.
- Devices: There is not enough tape or paper to fully cover the light, or the tape is loose. Some devices have light sources too large to be covered effectively.
3. Eliminate the source.
- Windows: Add additional layers of dark tape. If you have to use the light-colored wall-safe tape, then cut pieces of extra paper shades, and then tape these over the light source.
- Doors: Peel off the guilty section of foam, and realign it to be flush with the closed door.
- Devices: Add more tape around the light, or add additional layers of cut paper shade pieces. Remove the device if the light source can’t be covered effectively.
Part 3 – FAQ
1. Can I use aluminum foil instead of paper?
Aluminum foil is great at blocking out light and could technically work as a substitute for the paper. However, aluminum has an effect of bouncing off electromagnetic frequencies (EMFs). In fact, it’s often used in industry to shield such frequencies.
Shielding EMF may sound like a good thing. After all, EMF can cause oxidative stress on the body. One of the major purposes of sleep may be to clean up oxidative stress in the body, so it’s important to not give your body more work while you rest. But just covering one window with foil results in incomplete shielding, which can actually cause EMFs from other directions to bounce around and increase overall levels in the room. If you want to create a low EMF sleeping environment then a solution that surrounds the whole bed such as a Faraday cage canopy is best.
Also, having a window blocked off with foil may make your neighbors have odd thoughts about you.
2. Won’t paper grow mold?
I have been using this method for years and never had any mold growth. If mold grows easily in random spots around your house such as on paper items, in the dishwasher, or elsewhere, then this is usually a sign of bigger problems. Most often easy mold growth like that means there is a hidden mold problem somewhere in the building’s construction materials or AC system.
It’s additionally important to maintain a humidity level below 50% using a dehumidifier if necessary. Again, if the dehumidifier grows mold, it likely means there’s a bigger problem elsewhere in the building
An additional note about aluminum foil – some blackout methods involving foil use water to help attach it to the window, which would likely increase mold risk. The water trapped between the foil and glass could increase local moisture at the level of the (wooden) window frames.
Ready to finally achieve great sleep? Give the Better Blackout Method a try! Leave a comment about how it goes, and share with any friends who could use some help with their sleep.