sleep mask alternatives to block off light at night

Sleep Mask Alternatives: How to Block Light at Night

What are sleep mask alternatives? When it comes to sleep masks, not everyone likes to use them. Either you don’t like the feeling of something covering your eyes at night, or you think you look silly while wearing one. Even though I am a total sleep mask fan, I found other workable ways to block out light for sleep at night.

This article is going to be all about sleep mask alternatives that I think get the light-blocking done as reliably as a sleep mask.

The best sleep mask alternatives are blackout curtains and window shades. Blackout curtains and window shades cover your window so no light passes through. Your bedroom will be completely dark.

Personally, I’ve tried about every light-blocking sleep mask alternative. The reason is that there’s a street light shining directly through my window 24/7. So, I decided to use the classic 3 ways to block light for sleep

  1. sleep masks
  2. blackout curtains
  3. window shades

I reviewed each of these light-blocking alternatives and here’s what I found.

Let’s start to find out why blackout curtains and window shades are useful and workable alternatives to sleep masks.

Why are blackout curtains and window shades good sleep mask alternatives?

Blackout curtains, window shades, and sleep masks all get the same job done: They protect your eyes from light at night. When your eyes are exposed to light at night (even though your eyelids are closed), your brain stops your melatonin production. That’s because your brain subconsciously assumes it’s daytime.

At night, you must somehow block light to maximize your sleep quality. At the same time, you need to be able to remove the light-blocking during the daytime. That’s why I won’t discuss permanent ways of blocking light (like spray-painting your window black) in this post.

Surprisingly, blackout curtains and window shades are both very affordable and don’t require you to spend much more than for a couple of sleep masks.

Blackout curtains as a Sleep Mask Alternative

Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of black-out curtains as a sleep mask alternative.

Advantages of blackout curtains

Durability – If you get good blackout curtains once, they can last you a lifetime. They are usually made of thick cloth, which does not wear off fast. Also, blackout curtains are usually colored dark, so they don’t attract stains.

Machine Washable – Blackout curtains are even machine washable. So, you don’t need to worry about them smelling. However, as long as you use them in your bedroom, you actually don’t need to wash them at all – at least I never did.

Design – Blackout curtains can add a nice touch to your bedroom’s atmosphere. They can really enhance the way your bedroom looks and improve your well-being.

Easy to use – Once your blackout curtains are installed, blocking off the light when you go to bed becomes effortless for a lifetime. All you need to do is to close the curtains. And you’re finished.


Not mobile – Mostly you can’t simply remove blackout curtains from your room and take them with you somewhere else. That’s why sleep masks remain undefeated when you’re traveling. You can take them anywhere you want and they don’t need more than a thumb’s size of storage space.

Not 100% light blocking – In my experience, blackout curtains block about 95% of the light that comes through your window. Because blackout curtains don’t close all gaps, there is a small amount of light that still reaches your bedroom. Whether that’s a downside for you depends on what you plan to use them for. 

Example: In my case, blackout curtains are not enough. I have a bright street light shining right through my window at night. You can’t really block all light with curtains, especially if you have a light source pointed directly towards your bedroom.

If you, however, only need to block off soft ambient light, for example, the shining moon or the dawn, blackout curtains are just fine for you.

Window Shades as a Sleep Mask Alternative

Window shades our second sleep mask alternative. Let’s take a look at what their advantages and disadvantages are.

Advantages of window shades

Block nearly all light – If you get light-blocking window shades, you can expect them to be much better than blackout curtains. The reason is that window shades are attached really close to your window and they don’t leave any gaps for light.

Regarding light blocking, window shades are the best alternative for sleep masks.

Many variants – Window shades come in many different sizes, shapes, and materials. And additionally, they also come with different closing mechanisms. There are window shades you can fold (like paper) to close them, others have a roller closing mechanism – so-called roller shades. I’m 100% sure, there are window shades that suit exactly your purpose.

Cheap & Cost-Effective – Because window shades come in so many different variants, they can get incredibly price-effective. If you, for example, just want to get the light-blocking job done, and you don’t care for design, you can simply get paper window shades. The cheapest ones are available for under 10$(!).

Also, there are so many manufacturers of window shades, that they are cost-effective in every price region. Durable shades are available for under 50$.

Easy to setup – Window shades are effortless to setup. I just had to clamp mine to the edge of my window and I was ready to go. Usually, you can install them alone and you don’t need anyone’s help.

window shades for blocking light
Window shades with a roller mechanism.

Disadvantages of window shades

Not as durable as curtains – Don’t get me wrong: Window shades can last for years – I’ve had mine for over 8 years now. But because they often have a plastic closing mechanism, they tend to break more often. 

In contrast, blackout curtains can’t break at all, because there’s nothing for you to break. Also, the window shades cloth is not as durable as blackout curtain cloth or sleep mask cloth.

Deconovo Blackout Curtains

The Deconovo Blackout Curtains (click here to check pricing on amazon) are the only blackout curtains you can find with a full five-star rating.

I absolutely recommend them due to the insane ratings and the beautiful design. Lots of people don’t even buy them for their light-blocking capabilities, but because they look so good!

Grandekor Window Shades

As window shades let me advise you to get these ones: Grandekor Cordless Blackout Roller Blinds (click here to check pricing on amazon). Why? From all the window shades models you can find online, they are one of the few with a solid spring mechanism to retract the shades. These ones will last a lifetime!

The shades I bought have a cheap plastic rolling mechanism that breaks all the time.

Why you need sleep mask alternatives

Sometimes you just don’t feel like wearing a sleep mask. Especially when you’re sick and have a cold, you should avoid wearing a sleep mask. Bacteria from your skin and sweat can accumulate on the sleep mask, infecting your sleep mask.

Also, sleep masks sometimes just don’t feel right. I’ve found that when I wear a sleep mask and can’t fall asleep, my sleep mask starts to feel itchy after some time.

Sleep masks are great on most occasions. But sometimes you just need a solid alternative to your sleep mask. Something you can rely on if you want to sleep without a sleep mask once.

Sleep mask alternatives for claustrophobia

When you have claustrophobia, wearing a sleep mask could trigger a negative feeling. Naturally, you don’t feel well in small rooms. Sleep masks can trigger claustrophobia because they limit your sight and leave a subconscious impression of confined space.

If you have claustrophobia, you need blackout curtains or window shades.

Why there is no perfect alternative to sleep masks

Now I’ve told you that blackout curtains and window shades are the best alternatives to sleep masks. But they still have some downsides. For example, there’s no sleep mask alternative that you can take with you anywhere.

But why? When you want to block light, you only have to options:

  1. Block the light from your window.
  2. Block the light from your eyes.

There’s no other way to block light at night. And when you want to block light from your eyes, a sleep mask is the only way. To block light from your eyes, you somehow need to cover them. And that’s basically a sleep mask.

Everything that covers your eyes at night, so you can sleep better is automatically a sleep mask.

If you look for an alternative, you have only one remaining option: Darken your bedroom window.

The best products you can get to darken your window are curtains or shades. But, there are also free ways to block off light from your bedroom window.

Go check it out here: How to darken your Bedroom Window for Sleep (A Helpful Illustrated Guide)

If you want to learn more about sleep improvement and how you can fall asleep faster, check out all our other guides here!

Leave a Comment