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I'm a very light sleeper. I cannot sleep if the room I am in is bright. Face-masks don't work for me because they give me allergies, prevent me from sleeping well, or don't match the geometry of my face.

I signed a 1-year lease in an apartment that has very bad general insulation (bad sound insulation, bad air insulation, bad insulation from vibrations from neighbors appliances, bad light insulation, bad heat insulation...), and that includes one of the worse window designs I've ever seen. They are not air-tight, not heat-tight and not light-tight at all..

This has caused me a lot of grief for various reasons:

  1. Since they are not airtight, during fire season (this is in California), we had to seal the windows shut with tarp because smoke was getting inside the apartment (costly, time-taking, difficult, not easy to do/undo);

  2. For the same reason, I left one of the sides tarped up because our downstairs neighbors are heavy smokers and the smoke would come up and wake me up at night;

  3. Neighbors going outside their houses to place calls or listen to music can be heard as clearly as if they were in the room, same with street noises, construction areas, etc;

  4. And most importantly, sunlight wakes me up every day at 5:30 or 6AM.

What makes it extremely difficult to shutter these is:

  1. The overhanging fixture (totally useless and extremely annoying), which reduces the options to screw curtain rods above the window, and leave out very little space between the wall and said fixture - I don't think I would mess with unscrewing them as they are fragile and would take up a lot of room;

  2. The levers to angle the window's panes which are protruding and prevent placing a flat plank of wood or other material against it without cutting a notch for them;

  3. The whole wall area around the window seems to be made of metal - nothing can be nailed or screwed in near the windows;

  4. The frequent winds that blow rather hard and would often push away anything flat placed against the windows;

  5. The absence of metal around the windows, preventing to use magnetic solutions (everything is aluminium);

  6. The width of the window casing (about 8ft), preventing the use of one single panel to go over it;

  7. The sunlight hits the window very powerfully and any hole of gap in the shutter casts a lot of brightness into the room;

  8. The solution has to be easy to put on and off in the morning/evening.

I tried to build shutters twice already. The first model was just a very large piece of folded cardboard placed into the wall frame against the windows, resting on the window sill. It was an OK solution, but I had these huge pieces of cardboard in the room, always sliding and falling down, and the seal wasn't great, especially on top, I had to tape it to the wall to prevent it from always gaping and falling down.

My current solution involves three panels, 2 are foam boards that I painted black, and which stay on thanks to magnets that I glued around the window frame and on the boards, and a middle panel made of light-sealing fabric and a wooden rod, also held in place with magnets at the top.

I am also not satisfied with this solution, since the sides of the light-blocking fabric are not pressed against the window frame and light leaks in, and there are gaps caused by the gap between the magnets and the foam boards, which on top of it are curving with the heat, thus letting in a lot of light.

I am really desperate to get good sleep in this apartment whatever the time of the day or the position of the sun is, and I am slowly becoming insane thinking about the poor (cheap?) decisions of the people who built this building, the absence of countrywide standards, and why I ended up accepting to live here so naively.

Can I efficiently block out all (or most of) the light from these windows in a simple, efficient manner?

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    Does this answer your question? How can I make a bedroom with lots of windows darker? Spoiler: buy blinds. – Mazura Feb 6 at 3:08
  • Have you looked at commercially available blackout curtains? They should solve the majority of your problems in one go. – FreeMan Feb 8 at 12:06
  • I would love to be able to fo that but if you look at the picture you will see there is something screwed above the window I cannot remove... no room for curtain rod or anything – MicroMachine Feb 8 at 17:49
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(That window type is called jalousie or louver windows, by the way.)

If you search for "jalousie window seal", you'll get some products that come in a roll and assist in sealing the gap between each window. That should help with the airtightness, though not as much as a real window would.

You could also use an "interior storm window"/"storm window insert", which is basically a sheet of plexiglass with a seal around the outside, designed to fit snugly in the window. This is a somewhat expensive and bulky solution, but would actually seal the window. Up to you if $100+ is worth it for something that you'd leave with the apartment after a year. (It's also possible to hand-make something like this. The tricky part is the seal.)

For light blocking, I would suggest paired command adhesive hooks, (the bigger ones) and stringing a curtain rod between them. Looking at the blinds on my patio door, which use a similar design, you should be able to squeeze a curtain between the blinds and the wall, though you'd need to do the curtains as a pair because of the support in the middle. If you can't fit the curtains back there, go over the top; place the hooks as far up the wall as you can (remember that the hooks need a bit of room above them) then just drape them over the blinds. Looks ugly, but it works; had the same setup growing up.

If that's not working out well, my backup recommendation would be a four-poster bed. Instead of using blackout curtains on the actual window, you get a four-poster bedframe, and just hang heavy fabric off of that instead.

jalousie window seal: first Google shopping result. Not a recommendation, I haven't used this or researched this product that well. Note that this goes over the edge of each glass pane, fitting between that pane and the next. It's sold as a roll, and is cut to length. You can buy this from multiple sources, but I suspect they're all pulling from the same factory.

Interior storm window site: first Google result. Not a recommendation. Here, you have choices. You can roll your own with a trip to the hardware store (plexiglass, cutter, and something for the edges), get a kit (you still buy the plexiglass locally, but the other stuff gets shipped), or buy premade online. All these options are kind of expensive.

Command Adhesive This actually is a product recommendation. Command Adhesive is what I've used in all the places I've rented to hang curtains in my bedroom. It's designed to hold, and be removed without damage. I'm recommending the brushed nickel hook as it looks a bit better than the plastic ones, and the 5lb one because there's a possibility that you'll need to put it over top of the existing blinds, and Command Adhesive is weakest at withstanding pulling.

Four-poster bed: selected because it's less horrifically expensive compared to some of the other options. Not a product recommendation.

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  • These are all really good ideas, but I would love if you could share some links or pictures of the systems you describe that I am not familiar with. Thank you! Like your ideas – MicroMachine Feb 6 at 7:10
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You have my sympathy, that sounds like a difficult apartment to live in. The movies I see only show the liveable Californian apartments, a pity there are less well built ones.

No big solution from me I regret.

If you decide to use cardboard again, try fixing permanent strips at the left and right edge of the window. This should hold the big piece in place, hopefully helping to hold it into place and sealing the light at at that edge.

The best big cardboard comes from the whitegoods (refrigerator) shops, big pieces without bends are much better to work with.

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  • What do you call “permanent strips”? – MicroMachine Feb 5 at 22:48
  • I mean cardboard fixed to the wall or window frame - staying there day and night. – Polypipe Wrangler Feb 6 at 0:23
  • How does it hold it in place, do you have a link or some reference? – MicroMachine Feb 6 at 7:08
  • No link or ref., pardon my miscommunication, I am overseas. I mean, it is hard to cut one big piece of cardboard and try to make it stay in place. Cut extra pieces of cardboard to make like a permanent frame around the window. If you have a photo, we can help further. Good luck, our fire season locally starts next month, hope we don't get smoked out. – Polypipe Wrangler Feb 7 at 5:30
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Since you mentioned infiltration of smoke through the windows, I recommend buying rope caulk (Millworks department) and pressing it into the cracks around the windows. This should seal it nicely. There is also a removable caulk, which peels off when you no longer want it. It is sometimes hard to find (local big box paint department).

I use rope caulk to seal around a portable or window air conditioner in the summer.

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  • Good luck caulking these window panes in a non-permanent way... my question includes “a solution that is easy to put on and off”. I need to change the air in the room frequently because it gets stinky quickly. – MicroMachine Feb 8 at 17:47
  • Obviously you haven't heard of rope caulk either. It can be pulled off and reinstalled easily. – DAS Feb 11 at 4:10
  • I will look into it! I did not know about it as you have guessed (reason why I ask online 😉). Thanks! – MicroMachine Feb 11 at 7:30
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I would paint the windows with an easily washable black paint.

Two coats, no edge leakage and won’t let light through.

Since, based on your comments there are other issues not explained in the original post...

Then another option is while doing the best with the window, you could make a 4 poster bed and use a lightproof covering much like a mosquito net.

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  • And I’d do it every evening? How do i paint over the screen? – MicroMachine Feb 5 at 20:29
  • If you don’t do it every evening you won’t sleep - not much change then... – Solar Mike Feb 5 at 20:34
  • I don't see myself removing the screen, painting each glass pane (without paint dripping everywhere outside and inside and into below neighbor's apartment? What if paint doesn't stick to the glass? Dries and flakes everywhere? This is directly exposed to the sun), and removing all the paint in the morning between when I wake up and when I start work at 8:30AM (for which I need natural light in my room...). The "paint the windows" solution is expensive, extremely cumbersome, and light might still come through the glass panes... – MicroMachine Feb 6 at 0:55

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