Who should get these
Our experts told us that most people would benefit from a darker room while they sleep. Whether you need total blackness or just a very dark room depends on your own reaction to light. “Individuals differ in their sensitivity to light, so I don’t think one answer fits everyone,” Siegel at UCLA told us. But for shift workers who sleep during the day, Manber from Stanford said total darkness is essential.
Most curtains we’ve tested for this guide are labeled as blackout curtains, but often they’re simply room-darkening (and sometimes not very good at that). True blackout curtains and shades, when installed properly, will block all light, even daylight, while good room-darkening curtains will block most light at night but are less effective during the day. If you want to darken a room for children napping during daylight hours, Mindell, author of, told us room-darkening curtains are probably better because a little bit of light actually helps preserve their sleep rhythms.
Some people use these curtains to block outdoor light for a home theater—and the Sebastian Total Blackout curtains we recommend will work for that purpose—but our focus in this guide is on improving sleep. We also have a guide to blackout shades.
How we picked and tested
Effective light blocking: If a curtain is labeled as blackout or room-darkening and it doesn’t make a room significantly darker, it’s not doing its job. We read countless user reviews to see if the curtains we considered lived up to that promise.
Attractive fabrics: Most of the blackout curtains we’ve found are made with synthetic fabrics, which are better at blocking light, but many of them are ugly. Blackout curtains have a specific job to do, but they’re still a prominent piece of home decor so they should look as smart as possible. Additional reading. We focused mostly on solid-colored curtains available in at least a few shades to work with a variety of styles.
Available in a variety of sizes: Windows come in all shapes and sizes, so we looked for curtains in a variety of lengths and widths. Wide panels are essential for proper installation—all of our picks are at least 4inches wide, and most are more.
Many manufacturers say their blackout curtains will help insulate drafty windows and reduce noise, but we didn’t focus on these factors or test for them. If your windows are letting in a lot of cold air or noise, curtains will only marginally help. We cover a few other measures you can take to block light and noise from the bedroom (such as weatherstripping windows and doors) here.
In 2017, we tested 1curtains, and in 201we tested 1(including retests of our original picks). I examined every curtain for construction and fabric quality, then photographed how much light came through each curtain.
In both years of testing we used a studio strobe light to flash an intense burst of light directly into the back of the curtain fabric while we simultaneously took a picture from the front; we used very light-sensitive settings to try to capture any light that came through. In the resulting pictures, the blacker the photograph, the better the curtain was at blocking light. With this testing method, only three of the 20 curtains we’ve tested over the years proved to be true total-blackout curtains, with just a few others coming very close..
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