The very first thing I recommend to anyone who’s child is struggling with sleep is to blackout their room. I mean PITCH BLACK. And I’ll tell you what, blackout curtains aren’t enough… but we’ll get to that.
Our body is intended to follow the schedule of daylight. Wake up when it’s light out and go to sleep when it’s dark out. That was the case and then a loooooong time ago (1895) Daylight Saving Time was created. Now allowing the schedule to shift to have more time to work for outside workers. Well I can tell you, the person who thought of this was NOT a parent.
I love the summer time, it’s lighter out longer and ultimately gives us more time to play. Time we don’t get outside in the winter because it’s completely dark outside by the time we finish dinner.
The trouble this creates for our little ones is that they are being asked to now go to bed at 7-8pm and it’s still light out. Not only does this create a power-struggle of wanting to go to bed, their body is not ready.
Why is their body not ready to go to sleep?
As we soak up sunlight and play outside, our body is producing the hormone melatonin. Literally from the sunlight right through our skin to pituitary gland. Melatonin gets released to us as the sun sets, putting us in a sleepy state. It doesn’t put us to sleep, it allows us to get sleepy (there’s a difference.)
Now that the sun sets around 8pm (here in MD, some places even later) this sleepy state happens too late for our kiddos. This is where the dark room comes into play.
We need to now create a “sun setting effect” by dining their bedroom lights, closing the blinds and going about our bedtime routine. If the sun is still shining in your kiddo’s room then this natural sleep aid can’t actually help your child get to sleep.
Oh and it also helps with the “Mom the sun is still up so I should still be up” commentary. Which for some, is more to worry about then melatonin 😉
Prevent early waking
It’s not just about making their room dark so they can go to sleep, it’s also about keeping them in bed in the morning. If your child is waking up earlier than normal, I want you to see what time the sun is rising. Are they waking up in the morning right after that?
6am is a completely appropriate time for our kids to wake up but I’ll be honest. If your kids sleep until 7am or later, 6 am is a rough time to switch to. Make it dark and keep them sleeping!
Like can’t-see-your-hand-in-front-of-your-face-dark! That’s right, that dark. So back to the blackout curtains. As cute and intentional as they are, they just don’t do the job.
Why? Because they don’t sit right up against the window. They hang nicely about an inch away. So as much as they help, they don’t do the job 100%. There is still light creeping in on the sides.
Here is the part you have come here for… if my curtains don’t work then what will. Well you have some options.
If you need a quick fix that costs you little to no money at all… my answer would be cardboard or trash bags.
That’s right, tape those right up on the glass of the window and make that room dark. If you’re going to use trash bags, save your time and efforts and get the contractor grade trash bags. They are extra thick and extra dark. Some of the regular ones are thin enough to still allow light through them.
If you are looking for a more aesthetically pleasing option then check these out! EZ Blackout Shades. I have these in my kid’s rooms and love them. They attach direction on the plastic part of the window frame with velcro. They are also super easy to just lift up and velcro onto themselves when you do want to let light in during the day. These are so great I have sheer curtains in my daughter’s room… because they were cute! Check out my video of them in my son’s room.
Another great option that a client of mind mentioned were these from Amazon. I personally haven’t tried them but she did and found success with them too.
Will they always need a dark room?
The short answer no. The longer answer… no but right now, yes! My philosophy is if they aren’t sleeping well, why not give them the optimal space to do it better in? They can grow out of it.You will most likely take them down when they ask you. But for now, provide them the environment that fosters the best sleep possible!