Light is one of the most important factors in the sleep quality equation. Our body naturally regulates the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin according to the environmental light present. At noonday when the sun is its hottest, the body’s melatonin levels plummet, and they gradually increase as the evening wears on. The innovation of light has worked wonders for human civilization, but one negative byproduct is a reduction in sleep quality. The streets where I live up are lit up throughout the night, and light from my housemates regularly seeps into my bedroom. In another article, I discussed how blue light from your phone may be keeping you awake at night. Getting better sleep improves health, brain function, mood, energy levels, and hormones (like testosterone) vital to overall performance and well-being. In addition to managing screen settings, there is another simple step you can take to create a natural dark environment that will have you drooling in no time.
The sun has not caught me in bed in fifty years.Thomas Jefferson
Where I live the sun rises a little after 6 during the fall months. Unlike Thomas Jefferson, the sun catches me in bed almost every day. Powerful sunlight seeps through the shades into the room, reduces the release of melatonin and other sleep chemicals, and the end result is shallower, less rejuvenating sleep.
Fortunately, I discovered blackout shades a few years ago, and I’ve had them installed everywhere I’ve lived ever since. Blackout shades function as an extra layer of protection from outside light entering through the windows. They block sunlight, streetlight, and porch light leading to deeper, more relaxing sleep.
I recommend the following Amazon product because it’s the only one I’ve ever used: Original Blackout Pleated Paper Shade Black, 36” x 72”. You cut out the thick paper to the dimensions of your windows (takes no more than 10 minutes and is easy to do), and then attach them to the window with a sticky substance already present on the paper. After that, you can pull your ordinary shades down over them like you normally would and, voila(!), your room just got a lot darker. The shades come with clips so you can put the shades up as normal during the day to let in light. I haven’t had to replace my shades in 3 years, and there is enough product in the package for at least two rooms.
Below are pictures of my 3-year old, slightly worn blackout shades. When I put down the outer layer of shades at night, my room instantly turns pitch black. It’s a huge improvement on the system I had in place before. I recommend this product to my friends & family because it’s logical, cheap, effective, and it starts working right away.
Sound is another big factor that influences sleep quality. Stay tuned for a fun post about how to solve the problem of environmental noise using free white noise tracks available online.