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Sleep Hygiene > Darkness

Sleep Better by Having Darker Surfaces in Your Bedroom To Absorb Light

A less-than-dark bedroom is an enemy of sleep. Your body won't produce sleep-inducing melatonin in the quantity it should if your bedroom lacks darkness when you are trying to sleep.

To help achieve darkness in your bedroom, you should have as much darker-colored surfaces as you can, such as darker-colored walls, carpeting, bedding and furniture.

This is because darker colors absorb light, as opposed to reflecting it. Having darker-colored surfaces can make a dramatic difference in the brightness of your room.

Form Should Follow Function

It's important to remember that your bedroom has a specific function. Since it's the place where you sleep, its main function should be to help foster sleep, not deter it. So the form or colors of your bedroom should help this important function.

Many people think that the bedroom's main function is to look pleasing, which may include having bright colors. No, no, no. Take my mother, for example. She has yellow-colored walls in her bedroom with white curtains. Her room seems bright 24 hours a day. Even her small illuminated clock can light up the whole room at night because of the light-reflecting surfaces.

While the colors in her bedroom may look nice, it is not a good sleeping environment. And, yes, she complains that she does not sleep well!

Dramatic Personal Example

For years, I had a bedroom that had off-white walls and brighter-colored furniture. I hated the way that the early morning sunlight illuminated the room and disrupted my sleep. I knew that a lack of light-absorbing darker colors in my bedroom was at least part of the problem.

So one day I painted the room dark tan. Lo and behold, the next morning I was not awakened by sunlight that entered my bedroom because the darker paint had absorbed much of it. I was amazed at the difference. I also eventually bought, in addition to light-blocking window treatment, a darker-colored bed spread and darker-colored furniture. Now my bedroom is as dark as a cave when I sleep, and I have no doubt the quality of my sleep has improved as a result.

Take Care of Light Sources

Often a significant and bothersome source of light in the bedroom while you try to sleep is the illuminated time display of your clock or clock radio. There is a fairly simple solution to this problem.

Find an old black sock or black cloth. Then lay it over the top of the clock so that at least part of it dangles over the time display and covers it. (You don't want to cover the clock completely because it needs to effectively release the small amount of heat that it generates.) This will block much of the light, and black is best because it will absorb the light. Then when you need to see the time you can just lift the sock or cloth. The other solution is to put black tape over the illuminated time display, but this, of course, makes finding out the time difficult and time consuming.

Another source of bothersome light can come from electronics, even when they are off. A power indicator light on a TV or computer can dimly light up a small room. In this case, placing black electrician tape over the lights is probably the best solution. You can cut a piece of tape that's just large enough to cover the light so it won't make the electronic device look trashy. It's true that if you ever want to know if the electronic device is plugged in without looking at the wall you will have to take the tape off, but this does not seem that something that will happen often.

Finally, if light is entering under your bedroom door, then consider putting a towel at the base to block the light. A dark or even black towel is best since it will largely absorb the light.

Still Skeptical?

If you are skeptical about how darker colors can darken your bedroom, conduct a little experiment. Get a flashlight and go into a small dark room, such as a small bathroom, and shut the door to keep all light out.

Turn the flashlight on and find a light-colored surface (the lighter colored the better). Shine the flashlight onto the surface just a few inches away. The result will be that the light reflects off of the light-colored surface and illuminates the small room. Now find a dark-colored surface (the darker the better) and do the same thing with the flashlight. This time the result will be that the dark-colored surface absorbs most of the light, leaving the room largely dark. Pretty neat.

So what does this prove? It shows that light is no match for darker surfaces, and that you should apply this lesson to your bedroom. The final result will be a better chance for great sleep.


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