Do babies need darkness to sleep?

In the dark about how to get Baby to sleep, or just wondering if you should be? Many sleep experts recommend blocking out the light to some degree or another when it’s time to put your little one down to bed, but how necessary is the cover of darkness when you’re a baby who sleeps around the clock, and probably doesn’t know the difference between night and day yet, anyway?

Circadian rhythms

Actually, darkness at nighttime and light during the day are exactly what cues Baby‘s body and brain to establish circadian rhythms. Being in the dark cues their body to start making melatonin, the hormone that prompts nighttime sleepiness. Babies who are having a hard time figuring out the difference between night and day can benefit from dark bedrooms for nighttime sleep, dim lighting around the house in the evening, and some sunlight during daytime sleeps, so their bodies know it’s not time for true bedtime yet. 

Parents can help encourage this connection by having as much natural light in the home as possible, and by keeping the lights dim during nighttime wakings.

Adjusting to Baby’s needs

For most babies, regular nighttime darkness is enough, and keeping off the overhead bright lights after bedtime is sufficient to keep them asleep. On the other hand, babies who are lighter sleepers can sometimes benefit from darker and less distracting environments. If you think Baby might be one of them, you can try reinforcing the existing curtains in their room with dark cloth, or you can buy blackout curtains. Babies who are sensitive to ambient, nighttime light while they sleep can also benefit from white noise machines to drown out distracting sounds.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Baby naps: Daytime sleep tips.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic, July 9 2015. Web.
  • “Babies and Sleep.” Pediatric Services. Pediatric Services, January 26 2013. Web.
  • “Bedtime Habits.” Medline Plus. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 23 August 2016. Web.
  • “Circadian Rhythms Fact Sheet.” National Institute of General Medical Sciences. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, November 2012. Web.
  • “Melatonin and Sleep.” Sleep Foundation. National Sleep Foundation, 2016. Web.
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