I am in University and this is my first time living in the city. I am so used to having a completely dark bedroom and now my bedroom is always so bright from the lights that I cannot sleep at all.

I am living in residence so I am not allowed to just put up curtains or do anything to my windows.

Also cost is a huge factor as I'm trying to pay for my tuition


13 Answers 13


If you are looking to save money and go the easiest route, I would purchase a sleep mask.

enter image description here

Years ago I worked the night shift for a few years and couldn't find any curtain that would truly make it seem like "night time". This is the only thing that worked for me. It may take a few nights to get adjusted but there are so many out there, that I am sure you will find one that you like. Even today as I work a normal day shift, I still wear one at night because I am just to accustomed to it.

  • @GC13 If you have another suggestion, please post it below. New answers should not be added to comments. Feb 6, 2017 at 16:45
  • 3
    You can even use a folded T-shirt for a zero-cost version of this solution. If you are a reasonably unfidgetty sleeper it stays on surprisingly well.
    – peterG
    Feb 6, 2017 at 21:19
  • 20
    Another mind blowing Q&A session courtesy of Lifehacks. Feb 7, 2017 at 5:10
  • 1
    They give these away for free on some airlines- I have ones from Cathay Pacific and Ethiopian airlines, so might be worth asking relatives etc. if they have one in a drawer somewhere. Feb 7, 2017 at 23:51
  • 1
    +1 i love eye shades. i use them even though i also have blackout curtains that work well. i need absolute darkness to sleep, and eye shades work very well. recommend getting one made out of pure silk.
    – user428517
    Feb 9, 2017 at 20:37

When I was a kid there was a bad heat wave and we used aluminum foil on the windows to keep the sun out. I don't know exactly what you mean by "do anything to my windows" but with a few cents worth of foil, you can make sure no light gets through.

  • That is a really neat idea!
    – Lil' Bits
    Feb 7, 2017 at 19:26
  • 1
    I spent a summer in yellowknife canada and this was a very common sight there. Feb 7, 2017 at 19:40
  • 3
    When I was working nights, a night-shift veteran (20+ years) told me he had foil over most of the windows in his house. Apparently it works better than anything else.
    – Will
    Feb 7, 2017 at 20:41
  • 2
    You should, however, consider that this may make people suspect you of growing Cannibis in your room.
    – Jules
    Feb 11, 2017 at 6:29
  • 1
    I've used a "space blanket" (aluminized mylar) from a dollar store. These are probably large enough to cover your window - no need to tape together strips of foil. Feb 13, 2017 at 5:37

There are large paper blackout shades (see example on Amazon) that block out all the light on the window's I've used them on.

paper window shade

They are a bit like giant sticky notes, with a sticky end that attached to the ceiling or window frame. During the day, when you want light, you use small plastic clips to gather up the extra paper material which lets light in. They cost about $30.

  • I just got one of these and it worked so great for the price. I only paid $7 each for mine at walmart. There's two main kinds: "light filtering" (blocks vision but not light) and "room darkening" (prevents any light from passing at all). It also looks pretty good despite how cheap it really is (just fanned paper). Feb 13, 2017 at 5:01

I had an eye surgery a while back and needed to black out a room under similar conditions. Though in my case it was the morning sun I was trying to black out.

I have tried 2 methods.


Do you care if its visible from the outside? I used tin foil taped directly on the window. Blacked out completely.

However, people will notice the crazy person with newspaper or tin foil on their windows.

Annoyingly, like Willeke says, the tape does leave behind residue that I had to scrap away with chemicals.

Also, on hotter days there was a fair amount of condensation between the foil and the window. Just a heads up nothing really to worry about there I believe.

Cardboard shade

I eventually made a shade the size of my whole window out of cardboard. The window was recessed so I would snug it against the top and bottom ledge, in front of the existing ineffective blinds. Blacked out completely.

The nice thing about this is that I could take it down and put it up easily. It left no trace of having been there. And I didnt look like a crazy person; at least from the outside. And it didnt cost me anything since I had cardboard lying around from various amazon packages. Maybe a few dollars in duct tape though.

  • 2
    Instead of tape, you can build a lightweight frame (plastic, thin wood, ...) and snap it to the window using blue tack or suction cups. Alternatively, you can glue a velcro to the window (yes, it's probably "forbidden", but I would be surprised if it caused you any trouble) and another one to your frame.
    – yo'
    Feb 7, 2017 at 14:47
  • I used two layers of foil with bubble-wrap glued between them, which is sold as insulation, but the Codes Enforcement officer said it's not allowed. There are now curtains between the windows and anything else I might have to block light/heat, so that no one can complain. Feb 7, 2017 at 16:06
  • 1
    Putting tin-foil on your windows is not crazy. But put you some tin-foil on your glasses an' pretty soon ever'one's talkin' 'bout 'cha!!!! :) Feb 7, 2017 at 22:34
  • Bubble wrap makes a surprisingly effective double glazing substitute. If you find black bubble wrap then it would be ideal to stick to the window glass directly.
    – Criggie
    Feb 8, 2017 at 4:48
  • Depending on the sun's angle and window's facing, you might benefit from a while/light colour on the glass side for light reflection, and a darker colour material on the inside for light blocking. I've seen windows cracked for being painted plain black, whereas a layer of light paint first on the inside stopped the breakeage
    – Criggie
    Feb 8, 2017 at 4:50

Use double layer of black garbage bags

I have used double layer of black garbage bags in the past. I've fixed the bags with black tape that doesn't stick much to avoid leaving marks. However, over time with many season change, this tape unglued by itself. I guess paint tape would be better for this, but I'm not sure it would not unglue over long period of time as well.

enter image description here


  • It's really cheap to cover large windows.
  • The double layer is thick enough so the light doesn't pass through at all.
  • Easy to cover the whole window of any form without leaving a crack.
  • Quick and easy to setup


  • You don't have access to day light without undoing the setup.
  • Some people find this creepy from inside.
  • People from the outside will see a black windows which may not feel pretty to some peoples
  • Although there is no light coming in the room, there is also no light reflected back outside. Which mean all the heat is kept between the garbage bags and the window. This can heat up the room. Usually, this extra heat is not wanted during summer and welcome for winter time. However, I've found that since the window is heated as well, bugs like fly and ladybug find any possible crack in your windows to hibernate there. Which make your window quite dirty.
  • 1
    This. Except, use a single layer of "contractor-grade" trash bags, which have thicker plastic and thus don't require doubling-up. In my experience, plain masking tape (e.g., this) works fine. The key is to tape all the way around, leaving no gaps for light to peek through.
    – hBy2Py
    Feb 8, 2017 at 3:45
  • +1 for pillow on head. Especially cosy in winter. However its two separate answers concatenated. Consider separating the pillow one into its own answer ?
    – Criggie
    Feb 8, 2017 at 4:51
  • @Criggie I've splitted them like suggested and added more detail to the pillow solution.
    – AXMIM
    Feb 8, 2017 at 21:07
  • With any tape you will have to replace it regularly and with any tape you need to buy new every so often. I would guess every year or so, every other year if it has been stored right.
    – Willeke
    Feb 8, 2017 at 21:09
  1. Sleep mask

Yes, sleep mask is best (economic and effective).

  1. Canopy

If you find sleeping mask uncomfortable, try to build a canopy (DIY will be economic) as seen in below image.

DIY cost may vary between $50 - $200,

while readymade will cost >$200

enter image description here

  • 4
    This looks effective but potentially rather hot. Feb 7, 2017 at 16:21
  • Depends on the weather condition and internal room environment.
    – GC 13
    Feb 7, 2017 at 20:22
  • I doubt this will work in any situation where you aren't allowed to hang curtains. It seems like only a dorm is the only thing that matches that description and canopy beds s won't fit.
    – user17280
    Feb 8, 2017 at 1:19
  • Well, to answer this question, I took reference of canopy for a DIY cheaper and easier approach
    – GC 13
    Feb 8, 2017 at 20:29

If you want all the light-blocking of tin foil, and all of the subtlety of not having a shiny surface behind your window, consider "blackfoil" or "cinefoil." It's essentially aluminum foil, but with a matte black surface. It's generally used in theater lighting to block stray beams which might otherwise be escaping from the stage lights (or similar uses). On the order of $30 for a 50-foot roll.

If you don't need to be quite that thorough though (and you really don't), I had a similar problem sophomore year with construction lights, which I solved with a big roll of black bulletin-board paper and some tape. I picked mine up extra cheap at a going-out-of business sale, but even a full roll at full cost isn't that expensive (~$20). Maybe make friends with an art student?

If you haven't tried this before, do be a bit careful though. The combination of late nights and no circadian light source ended up being a bad combination for me. YMMV; but do monitor how it affects your wellbeing.


Build a frame from some lengths of wood, to fit in the window opening. Cover with a few sheets of paper, or some plywood. Maybe some rubber foam around the edges to close any remaining gaps. Add two handles to make it easy to move this frame.

Insert at night, remove in the morning. It's a bit more effort to build, but it's much faster to remove in the morning than anything taped to the window.

  • 2
    If you do this and want it to be permanent (for the duration of your residence) you might consider painting the window side of structure with matte black spraypaint
    – Sidney
    Feb 6, 2017 at 17:54
  • @Hobbes I think Sidney meant the side of the constructed structure that faces the window, not a side of the window. Feb 6, 2017 at 18:20
  • 1
    @hobbes Sorry for the misstatement, I meant to paint the window side of the piece of plywood you put in your structure, not the window itself. Playwooded up windows are kind gauche, blacking it out helps with that a bit..
    – Sidney
    Feb 6, 2017 at 18:20
  • @Sidney misread your statement, sorry...
    – Hobbes
    Feb 6, 2017 at 18:39

Put a pillow on your head

This is an alternative to the sleep mask because I have found that the sleep mask doesn't stay properly when I move and the elastic band are quite uncomfortable.

enter image description here


  • Whatever room and bed you sleep on, this solution tag along without much extra care on your part.
    E.G : It is quite handy when sleeping in hotel room because it doesn't require to bring anything and your habit remain unaffected. You can just ask for an extra pillow if there is none in the room.
  • When sleeping sideways, this method also act as a sound barrier because both ears are obstructed by a pillow.
  • Only cost a extra pillow


  • It's not quite as good as a real dark room because the pillow can sometime run off when moving during your sleep. So you need to replace the pillow properly from time to time.
  • It can be hot sometime under there in the summer.
  • With time, you'll get used to sleeping like that and it will be harder to sleep without an extra pillow on your head.

Note : When sleeping on your back, the nose act like a stopper to prevent the pillow from slipping down and obstruct the respiration path.

  • I've used four pillows happily - one under the head, one leaning on each end of that (like walls) and a top pillow as a roof/ceiling. It works well for me and doesn't block fresh airflow.
    – Criggie
    Feb 8, 2017 at 22:12

I assume that there are existing blinds/curtains? Hang a blackout sheets on them using clothes pegs.

One could also fit a baton using command-adhesive removable tabs above the head of the window so that it's not permanent, or wedge a baton inside the window reveal (cheeks of the window), just make it fractionally longer than the space between the reveals and spring it in place. card each end will protect the paint. Make sure you are friends with the maintenance guy for your block too!

Failing that, get a 750mw anti-light from eBay. Positioning needs to be exact, otherwise you will get standing bright spots. ;)


There's a product designed as a portable (suction-cup) blackout blind for travelling with babies. I've known it to be used by people living in furnished accomodation with rubbish curtains.

It's called the gro anywhere blind and is available from major internet reailers and shops specialising in prodcuts for babies. It's not the cheapest option but looks much smarter than tin foil or cardboard (from both sides).

Another option is a telescopic curtain pole which presses against the sides of the window recess. They're often sold for shower curtains but I've used them to avoid drilling into tiles in a bathroom. That link isn't the cheapest source (eBay/amazon etc. are worth a try) but should be quite stable as an example.


If it turns out that you are allowed to put up curtains, make sure you get blackout curtains. They really do what it says on the tin: we have white curtains on the balcony window in our bedroom, which faces south, and it's dark in the mornings thanks to the curtains.


A couple of layers of newspaper attached to the window with masking tape.

Depending on how dark you want it, you can add fewer or more layers or leave smaller or bigger gaps.

Do not leave the tape on the window or window frame more than a few weeks, when the tape has been out for months it is very hard to remove.

This is an 'can use it already today' and 'more temporary' method than several of the others suggested here.

I also suggest a more long term solution, but it will only work in some cases.
If your window frame allows it you can also use an expandable shower curtain rod. For this you need a window that is set into the wall so you can use the telescopic and self-fixing nature of the rod.
If you can fit one of those you can hang two or three layers of shower curtain on it, maybe found in cheap or trift shops.

  • You can get actual curtain rods that work by expanding against the sides of the window recess, I used these for years and can then hang normal or blackout curtains from them.
    – Vality
    Feb 8, 2017 at 6:11
  • I have been using a shower curtain rod with shower curtain in the kitchen for many years now. They are sturdy enough to hold much more than the shower curtains.
    – Willeke
    Feb 8, 2017 at 16:32

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