It may have never crossed your mind, but the environment that your child sleeps in is just as important as establishing good routines, respecting your child’s need to sleep and ensuring that they have independent sleep skills. Blocking out light in your child’s room may help your child to settle at night, prevent early morning wakings and improve daytime napping.
How Does Light Impact Sleep?
Our sleep patterns are regulated in part by light and darkness. Light cues trigger chemical changes, including the release of the hormones melatonin and coritsol. Melatonin is released as the light in our environment decreases and is responsible for helping the body prepare for and maintain a state of sleep. Coritsol, on the other hand, helps to prepare the body to become alert and active and is released when we are exposed to light. Exposure to light, including electronics, as you are preparing for sleep can also be disturbing.
Window Covering Options
The National Sleep Foundation recommends exposing yourself to enough bright light during the day and keeping your bedroom dark to sleep. Minimizing exposure to light and electronics before going to bed and avoiding exposure to light throughout the night is also recommended.
Infants and children are very sensitive to light cues, so taking the time to evaluate their sleep environment can be an important step in ensuring a restful sleep. In addition to minimizing the amount of sunlight in your child’s room, it’s important to consider other sources such as street lights and electronics like monitors or night lights.
There are a number of products on the market to block out external sources of light. They vary considerably with respect to price, ease of installation, durability, toxicity and efficacy. Popular options include:
- cordless black out shades;
- heavy curtains or curtains lined with black out material;
- dark paper or bristol board;
- dark towels; or the
- Gro Anywhere Blind.
Do It Yourself
Still I wondered how much darker I could make it without spending too much more money. I attached three sheets of black bristol board directly to the glass with masking tape. The bristol board had great coverage, but even with the shutters closed some light filters through. The most effective approach was to combine bristol board, shutters, and lined curtains. That is an actual photo of his bedroom! It may seem like overkill, but if your child is sensitive to light it’s worth trying one or more of these options.