What to Know About Blackout Curtains

Medically Reviewed by Dany Paul Baby, MD on November 14, 2022
4 min read

A quality night’s sleep leaves you feeling energized, refreshed, and prepared to take on your day. But many people struggle to get enough sleep. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that 70 million Americans experience chronic sleep issues. If you suffer from sleep deprivation or a disorder like insomnia, you can use blackout curtains to get a better night’s rest. 

Many people install blackout curtains in their bedrooms or other sleep spaces. This simple fabric can drastically improve the length and quality of your sleep, but it does have one potential downside. Discover the purpose and pros and cons of blackout curtains.

Blackout curtains are fabric drapes or shades that cover your windows. They block out sunlight and artificial light from passing cars, streetlights, and other sources. These shades can provide an extra layer of protection over blinds, which tend to have gaps that allow light to leak through. 

With blackout curtains, you can sleep in near-total darkness any time of the day or night, even if you live in an urban area with light pollution.

Many people use blackout curtains in their sleeping areas to reduce exposure to morning sunlight and other light sources. The human body produces melatonin in the dark. This naturally occurring hormone helps regulate your body’s circadian rhythms, or natural sleep-wake cycle. Blackout curtains prevent light from disrupting the creation of melatonin, allowing you to fall asleep faster and keep snoozing longer. 

Across the globe, many people use blackout curtains to aid sleep. A survey of Norwegian adults found that 63.3% of respondents use blackout curtains. People aged 30 or younger use blackout curtains the most, with usage declining slightly among older populations.

Blackout curtains are an affordable and simple way to improve your sleep and overall health. Blackout curtain benefits include: 

  • Allowing shift workers and other people who need to sleep during the day to rest in darkness
  • Eliminating or reducing light exposure, which can disrupt your sleep and leave you feeling too tired during the day
  • Helping maintain your natural circadian rhythm
  • Increasing the privacy of your home at night 
  • Reducing your home cooling costs by shading your bedroom from summer sunlight

By improving the duration and quality of your sleep, blackout curtains can also enhance your overall health. Sleep affects every system in your body, including your cardiovascular, digestive, and nervous systems. Getting adequate rest reduces your risk of developing chronic health conditions associated with sleep insufficiency, like: 

  • Anxiety
  • Coronary heart disease
  • Depression 
  • Hypertension
  • Metabolic disorders
  • Obesity 
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Work-related accidents 

Blackout curtains can prevent these disorders and injuries by helping you consistently get a good night’s risk.

Blackout curtains have few health disadvantages. However, manufacturers may produce blackout curtains or roller blinds using polyvinyl chloride (PVC). This material has phthalates, chemicals that can enter and damage the human body through air particles, direct contact, and other methods. 

The Center for Health, Environment and Justice (CHEJ) warns that exposure to PVC poses many risks for humans and the environment, like: 

  • Air and groundwater pollution 
  • Damage to the immune and reproductive systems
  • Formation of landfill gases, which can lead to landfill fires
  • Increased risk of developing brain and liver cancer
  • Liver damage

The CHEJ recommends purchasing blackout curtains, drapes, and other window furnishings made from fabric instead of PVC to avoid these issues.

How do you know if blackout curtains would help you? While everyone can benefit from less light exposure during sleep, blackout curtains are most valuable for people with sleep deficiencies and disorders. 

Generally, most adults require seven to nine hours of sleep daily. Younger people require more sleep to support their development and growth. For example, a newborn should sleep 14 to 17 hours a day, and teenagers need eight to 10 hours. 

If you don’t regularly receive the recommended sleep for your age bracket, you may have a sleep deficiency. This lack of sleep can cause symptoms like: 

  • Decreased energy
  • Delayed reaction times
  • Feeling like you can’t think or process information quickly
  • Headaches
  • Increased anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Limited memory
  • Poor decision-making and risky behaviors
  • Shrinking attention span
  • Sleepiness during the day

Sleep deprivation builds up over time and can lead to more severe symptoms, including: 

  • Dangerous or impulsive behavior 
  • Difficulty speaking 
  • Drooping eyelids
  • Falling asleep involuntarily for a few seconds
  • Hallucinations
  • Trembling hands
  • Twitching eyes 

Blackout curtains can help you get more sleep and reduce or eliminate symptoms of chronic sleep deprivation.

Blackout curtains can improve your sleep by reducing light exposure, but they may not fully solve sleep deficiencies and disorders. Other strategies that you can use to boost your sleep hygiene include: 

  • Banning smartphones and other devices that emit harmful blue light from the bedroom
  • Establishing a consistent bedtime routine
  • Keeping your bedroom cool or warm enough, depending on your preferences
  • Limiting your consumption of alcohol and caffeine before you sleep
  • Staying physically active during the day
  • Taking prescription medications that help you fall and stay asleep

Using blackout curtains and other sleep hygiene methods can help you experience deeper, longer, and more refreshing sleep. Sleep has a significant effect on every aspect of your health, so it’s worth investing in a few tools that will make your bedtime pleasant and productive.