Make baby's room DARK!
Throughout human history, darkness and sleep have gone together like PB&J. However, if you’re trying to sleep, how dark is dark enough? You might be surprised to learn that turning the lights off and drawing the curtains might not, and in fact probably won’t, make the grade. In today’s world, many people live in a “city that never sleeps.” Even in the most remote areas of rural America, street lamps are lighting the back roads and sabotaging the sleep of all who live within sight of them. Humankind has not slept in complete darkness since the ancient nights of the Roman Empire and the Middle Ages when fires were laborious to light artificial light like candles and oil lamps were expensive and scarce.
So what is it about the light that keeps us awake when we’re trying so hard to catch our forty winks of sleep? In the presence of light, the absorption of the ‘sleepy hormone’ Melatonin is blocked making it harder to fall asleep and even stay asleep.
The concept of the “ancient dark” we all chase without knowing it is not unheard of in our modern day. Rock star Rod Stewart even hires staff expressly to darken his hotel room so that he can get his best sleep! It may sound ludicrous to us, but he obviously knows that sleeping in the embrace of the “ancient dark” effect makes a difference.
I encountered this “ancient dark” for the first time when I was on a fifth grade field trip to The Lost River Caverns. The guide actually turned off all the cavern lights and his flashlight while we were under the earth. I couldn’t see my hand in front of my own face, and I was relieved when he turned the lights back on. I use this story when desperate, sleep-deprived parents ask me what I mean by a dark room. If you can see your hand in front of your face—it’s not dark enough.
Most people don't live in a cave so how do we bring this “ancient dark” to a child’s room in a world filled with light? You will need the following: Wet rag (with water), aluminum foil, painter's tape, and a blackout curtain. First, wet the window pane with the rag. Then place a fresh sheet of aluminum foil over the top of the glass. The water from the rag will help the aluminum foil stick to the glass. Be careful to rip a significant amount of foil, more than you need to cover the space. Smooth out the foil onto the window and into the corners. Do this for the entire glass surface. Finally, it's good to test it out in the daytime with the lights off, and the room door closed. Turn off the light and close the door. If you see any light coming through at all, add more aluminum foil wherever that pesky light is invading the space. Painter's tape can help you to tape it down in the corners or where one piece of foil meets another. After covering the window with the foil, cover the window with a blackout curtain for the final touch. If any light is coming through around the doorframe, tape it over with a thick piece of foil or cardboard around the edge of the door inside the room. If you have light coming in through the bottom of the door, a draft stopper will block the light. If you don’t have a draft stopper, my husband and I have found that a blanket or towel can work just as well.
Creating the “ancient dark” effect is not an easy task, but most certainly is a possible task. I hope this has helped make it a reality for you, and 'til you hear from me again—Sleep Well!