​Sleep Better and Stay Cool with Blackout Curtains

If you've ever woken up from a night's sleep feeling tired and out of sorts, it's possible that the environment of your bedroom has not allowed you to sleep well. Making your room conducive to sleep not only helps you get a good night's rest. During sleep, the brain is active. The brain uses this time to store and confirm memories. In addition, things we learn during the day are processed and retained. Studies show that sleep enhances creativity and complex thinking.

A well-arranged bedroom that promotes sleep should control light, sound and temperature. Low light, cool temperatures and quiet all help us get to sleep and rest well. Controlling light may not be easy if you live in an urban area. Chances are that streetlight penetrates your sleeping area. Temperature can be controlled with air conditioning, heating and fans. However, in extremes of weather, cold air from outside during the winter and heat in the summer can enter the room through windows and other openings in the building envelope. Blackout curtains are an effective way to block light and control transfer of heat through windows.

The Effects of Light on Sleep

If you've travelled to another time zone, you know that your internal clock may make you fall asleep or wake up at times that correspond to the periods of night and day where you live. Called circadian rhythm, humans and other living things respond to the 24-hour cycle of daylight and darkness. Circadian rhythm affects not only sleep but hormone production, regulation of body temperature, digestion and eating habits.

When light is diminished, the body produces melatonin, a hormone that causes drowsiness. When production of melatonin is disrupted, people often have trouble sleeping. Shift work, light from electronics such as computer monitors and other factors that affect the cycle of sleep and wakefulness often cause an interruption in melatonin production, which affects sleep.

The Relationship of Temperature and Sleep

The temperature of your bedroom affects how well you sleep. As you fall asleep, body temperature decreases slightly. This decrease induces sleep. If you are too hot, you perspire. If the room is too humid, you may not be able to release heat through perspiration. If you are too cold, you may shiver, making your muscles contract. This may wake you up or cause restless sleep.

Temperature also affects rapid eye movement, a stage of sleep when people dream. During REM, your temperature, rate of breathing and heart rate increase. Adults spend approximately 20 percent of their time asleep in REM. As people age, REM time decreases. Babies spend up to 50 percent of their sleep time in REM.

Research suggests that temperature may have an even greater effect on sleep patterns that light. This is important because disturbed sleep doesn't just affect daytime alertness. It is associated with obesity, degeneration of health and quality of life. Scientists recommend that bedrooms should be between 62 and 70 degrees F. The exact temperature depends on how you feel. You should be comfortable without being too hot or too cold. Thermal curtains help keep temperatures in a room even, allowing you to rest more comfortably.

Using Thermal Curtains to Regulate Light and Temperature

There are several ways to regulate light and temperature as you sleep. Avoid using electronic devices before going to bed, install mood lights and table lamps to create a cozy feeling, and use heating and air conditioning to regulate room temperature and humidity. However, one of the best, and most economical, ways to control both light and temperature is to use blackout curtains. Light-blocking curtains are essential for shift workers. A true light-blocking curtain blocks 90 percent of light. Because circadian rhythms are affected by changes in the sleep/wake cycle, people who must sleep during the day can be assured that their room will be as dark as night when these curtains are installed.

Thermal curtains reduce heat transfer through windows. In the winter, cold air is kept outside and warm air stays inside. In addition, insulated curtains cut down on drafts when installed properly. The thermal properties are enhanced by a vapor barrier, which keeps condensation that forms when air changes temperature from settling on surfaces in a room.

Once available only by custom order at expensive drapery shops, thermal light-blocking curtains are now on the market from major manufacturers such as Deconovo. A range of styles, fabrics and sizes are available as ready-made window coverings. And contrary to the name, they are not just black. Insulated room darkening curtains come in exciting patterns and a variety of colors.

What to Look for in a Thermal Curtain

Good-quality insulated curtains are multi-layered so that moisture and heat do not transmit through the material. In contrast to regular draperies that are translucent, light-blocking curtains are opaque so that light and UV rays are blocked. In addition, many are made of materials that do not attract allergens such as dust mites.

Most thermal curtains are made with three layers. The layer facing into the room can be any type of fabric, such as faux leather, cotton, polyester or linen. This fabric is also decorative, displaying color, design and texture that complement the décor of a room. The inner layer is a thick material that serves as a thermal and vapor barrier. Common materials are foam and cotton flannel. The outermost layer, which faces the window, may be a fabric lining or a light-reflecting backing. Materials are interwoven for ultimate effectiveness in blocking light and regulating temperature.

Many insulated curtains are machine-washable. Simply wash with cool water and hang to dry. Those with special backings may require hand-washing. When drying, be sure to hang straight so that the backings do touch.

Light-blocking curtains can be effectively used in many rooms, not just bedrooms. Try them in the media room to create a movie theater effect. During the winter, open them on sunny days to capture the warmth of the sun. Be sure to close them at night to keep cold air out. Because they block UV rays, they can be used during the summer in any room to control heat transfer into the house through windows. This same property keeps sunlight from fading textiles, upholstery and other household items.

Best of all, insulated curtains look good. Select patterns and colors that complement your décor. If windows are the focal point of a room, use room darkening curtains to highlight the features of the windows. Layers of curtains can be used for decorative purposes as well as to block heat and light.