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Creating the ideal sleep environment for your baby or child is very important for establishing healthy sleep habits. One question I get asked repeatedly from exhausted parents is whether babies sleep better in the dark, or if they should get “used to” sleeping with light. My answer to this question is unequivocally “YES- babies DO sleep better in the dark, no question”. This is why blackout blinds are such a simple yet effective solution for encouraging solid sleep for our little ones.
In this blog post, I will shed some light on why babies sleep better in the dark. I’ll also explore the benefits of blackout curtains for babies and how they contribute to better sleep quality.
The science behind light and sleep
Light plays a significant role in regulating our internal body clock, also known as the circadian rhythm. Exposure to natural light during the day helps synchronize this rhythm, sending a clear message to our bodies that it’s daytime. However, excessive light exposure, especially at night time and during nap time, can disrupt the circadian rhythm and interfere with melatonin production and sleep cycles.
Babies are more sensitive to light than adults, and even small amounts of light can affect their sleep quality.
Why blackout blinds and dark rooms help babies and toddlers sleep
The addition of blackout blinds to your little one’s nursery is incredibly beneficial for many reasons:
Helps increase baby’s production of melatonin
Melatonin, often referred to as the sleepy hormone, is naturally produced by our bodies in response to darkness. Blackout blinds help create a dark environment that signals to the brain to produce melatonin. This makes it easier for babies to fall asleep at bedtime and stay asleep.
Reduces external stimuli
Babies are easily stimulated by their surroundings. Blackout blinds effectively block out external stimuli, such as streetlights, car headlights, and the rising sun, creating a calm and soothing sleep environment. By minimizing distractions, blackout blinds can allow for longer and more restful sleep.
Contributes to a relaxing, consistent bedtime routine
Babies thrive on routine, and having a consistent wind down routine is important for cuing your little one’s brain that sleep time is coming. Using blackout blinds and closing them whenever it’s bedtime or nap time helps create a predictable sleep routine by ensuring that the room remains dark, regardless of the time of day or season. This consistency reinforces the association between darkness and sleep, making it easier for babies to settle down and sleep better.
Improves daytime naps
Daytime napping is essential for a baby’s development, and blackout blinds can significantly enhance the quality of daytime sleep. By creating a dark environment during daytime naps, babies are less likely to become overstimulated. Darkness encourages the body to produce more melatonin during the day when it’s nap time, resulting in better nap duration and overall sleep patterns.
It’s extremely important for your little one to nap well during the day so that they don’t become overtired, which can worsen their nighttime sleep. And without blackout blinds, your little one might nap poorly!
**If your little one is continuing to nap poorly despite having blackout blinds in their room, this is fixable! Grab a copy of my free nap guide that has my top 5 tips for lengthening your little one’s naps.**
Makes for an easier and earlier bedtime
Babies who have trouble falling asleep may resist bedtime and experience difficulty settling down for night time. Blackout blinds can help signal that it’s time for bed by creating a dark ambiance, allowing babies to wind down naturally and fall asleep more easily. This is especially helpful during the spring and summer months when the sun sets much later in the day and your little one’s room is brightly lit with tons of sunlight during their bedtime.
I can’t tell you how often I see the following scenario. Spring time comes around (specifically after the Spring Forward time change) and suddenly there’s MUCH more sunlight beaming into a baby’s room. An exhausted, frustrated parent reaches out because their baby or toddler is suddenly fighting sleep and refusing to go to bed when he was an otherwise great sleeper. When I advise the parent to install blackout blinds, the problem suddenly goes away!
Tips and insights for using blackout blinds effectively
- Measure your windows accurately. Ensure you get blackout blinds that fit properly and provide maximum coverage, leaving no gaps for light to seep in. On a scale of 1-10, if “10” is pitch black and “1” is a bright sunny day, we want your little one’s room to be an 8.5-9/10 in terms of darkness *during daytime hours*. While there doesn’t need to be total darkness in the room, we still want their room to be VERY dark!
- Using blackout blinds means you can still use a dim night light if, for example, your toddler is experiencing separation anxiety or is afraid of the dark. Just make sure the night light is very dim and that it’s not illuminating the entire room.
- One blackout product by itself typically isn’t ample to create a dark enough room. One blackout roller blind or curtain usually makes the room a 5/10 in terms of darkness, unless the window happens to be very small and/or doesn’t receive direct sunlight (perhaps because it faces another house close by). This is why you will want 2 blackout products installed on the window- perhaps a roller blind with a curtain on top. Alternatively, you can always stick blackout paper or garbage bags directly onto the windows.
- Consider portability. If you travel frequently or want to use blackout blinds in multiple rooms, consider purchasing travel blackout blinds that can be easily installed and removed.
- If you have a new baby with day night confusion, avoid using blackout blinds for nap time just yet. Instead, encourage your newborn baby to sleep in a brightly lit room to help their internal clock develop.
“But Eva- I want my baby to learn to sleep anywhere!”
I completely understand a parent’s hesitation to get their little one “used to” perfect sleep conditions, as well as their desire to have a flexible sleeper. Here’s how I respond to this concern:
1) Teaching a baby to sleep “anywhere” is a myth
Here’s the thing. Some babies and children happen to be flexible enough to sleep in not-so-ideal environments, while others are not. For example, some babies might be able to sleep nicely in the stroller when you’re out running errands or in a room with regular shutters and lots of sunlight. And some babies will simply be too distracted by their environment to sleep well while on the go or in a light room.
This is no different than how some adults can sleep 8 hours straight on an international flight (like my sister), while others will never sleep for even a second on a plane without the help of a general anesthetic (such as myself).
And for the record, my sister and I grew up in the exact same home with the same upbringing and the same sleep environment.
Whether or not your baby can sleep well with lots of outside distraction comes down to his temperament and his inherent ability to be flexible with his sleep environment. If your baby is unable to sleep in an environment that isn’t optimal, there isn’t much to do about it. My BIGGEST recommendation in this situation is to simply respect your baby’s need to sleep in a dark, quiet room as many babies really DO sleep better in the dark. Don’t fight it anymore!
On a side note, my older daughter never slept with blackout blinds because she never needed them! My younger daughter, on the other hand, couldn’t fall asleep unless she was in a dark, quiet room. And my youngest would SOMETIMES sleep well without blackout blinds and would struggle at other times. Every baby is different!
2) Don’t worry about when you’re traveling
If you are an avid traveler, you might be worried about using blackout blinds in your little one’s room if you want your baby or toddler to sleep well when you are traveling.
Here’s the thing. Even if you’re away for 4 months out of the year, it’s still a minority of the time. Your child IS spending 8 months of the year sleeping in her crib or bed at home. Prioritize your child’s sleep environment when he’s home- and worry about vacations as they come. The last thing you want to be doing is sacrificing your baby’s sleep during those 8 months of the year, with the hope that your baby will learn how to sleep anywhere you go during your 4 months of vacation time.
Either your little one will be adaptable and sleep well without blackout blinds, or she won’t.
Quality sleep is essential for your baby’s growth and development, and creating a conducive sleep environment is a crucial aspect of promoting healthy sleep habits. Babies, toddlers and preschoolers DO sleep best in dark rooms, making blackout blinds crucial for your little one’s room.
By incorporating blackout blinds into your baby’s sleep environment, you can provide a peaceful and dark sleep space that significantly enhances their sleep quality.
I mean, they help your child fall asleep quicker and STAY asleep. What’s not to love?!
**And one last thing- have you joined my FREE Facebook community group? This is where you can get your sleep questions answered by experts, get access to free sleep tips and regular Q&As, and where you can connect with other sleep-loving parents of little ones! Can’t wait to personally connect with you there 🙂**
Other related sleep articles
6 Month Old Wake Windows and Sleep Schedules
15 Month Old Sleep Schedules: A Guide, Tips and Examples
Can you sleep train a newborn?
When can my baby sleep through the night without a feed?
The truth about your baby’s sleep cues and what they mean