If you’re not sleeping right, blackout curtains might be just what the doctor ordered to feel rested in the morning. Recent research on circadian rhythms and the effect of light on your sleep are showing us how to get a better night’s sleep. Blackout curtains can be an effective part of getting more sleep, which in turn can improve your overall health and quality of life.

The Effect of Light on Sleep

It wasn’t too long ago, historically speaking, that no one had alarm clocks. People woke up when the sun came up and went to bed not long after it went down. These are the natural rhythms of sleep for most of human history prior to the industrial age. What this means is that the human brain (and also the human eye) are hard wired to associate light with “time to wake up.”

In fact, research has found that specific cells in your eyes are designed to pick up the presence or absence of light. These cells don’t identify shapes or colors - just whether there’s any light around you. These cells are particularly attuned to blue light, because that’s the color of the morning sky. It’s also the light emitted by electronic devices like mobile phones and tablets, so if you’re looking into blackout curtains to help you sleep, make sure you’re also shutting off your devices at night.

Light doesn’t just wake you up. It also gives you energy. So, a little sunlight in the morning won’t just break up your sleep, it will also make you too awake to fall back asleep. What’s more, there are serious health consequences tied with late-night light, like obesity.

How Blackout Curtains Can Help You Sleep

Blackout curtains do exactly what the name says - they black out the light. This is true whether they’re actually black or not. There are white blackout curtains if you can’t bear to part with the all-white interior design scheme in your bedroom.

Keeping the light out of your room helps you to fall asleep and stay asleep. This can be particularly valuable to people who work second or third shifts and have trouble staying asleep once the sun comes up...or those who live at extreme latitudes and are forced to sleep with the sun up during the summer...or people who live in urban areas with lots of unnatural light. Blackout curtains can also work for people who just like to sleep in.

Perhaps best of all, blackout curtains can be inexpensive, within the price range of nearly any income. If you’re looking for a way to sleep longer and get a better quality of sleep, blackout curtains aren’t going to be a miracle cure-all. They are, however, an important part of an overall sleep hygiene program that includes opening windows to get fresh air, limiting caffeine use, avoiding electronic devices after a certain hour of the day, and going to sleep and waking up at regular times every day. If you’re already doing the rest of these, however, blackout curtains might be just the missing piece you’ve been looking for.