Should I keep a night light in my baby’s room?

There may be a space for a night light on many baby shower registries, but is there room in your child’s bedroom or nursery? There are pros and cons that come with any night light, no matter how cute or how practical it is. If you do choose to add some shine to your little one’s night-time habitat, it’s important to choose the right light, both in terms of safety and healthy sleep patterns.

To night light, or not to night light?

There are two main reasons parents might consider using a night light in a child’s room. The first has to do with an idea about what baby might want, and the second is centered around convenience for the parent. The first reason some parents are tempted to put up a night light is because they worry that their baby might be afraid of the dark. This worry is a little premature, though – fear of the dark is a much more common toddler fear,. It tends to appear once children are a little older, and have some context for the world. At the point when this fear shows up, many children are able to communicate it to their parents. It can be tricky to wean off of a night light if your baby (and then toddler) grows up expecting it!

The other common reason to use a night light is because infants often need care during the night, whether it’s for feeding, a diaper change, or comfort. In these situations, turning on an overhead light can wake babies all the way up, and interfere with the rest of the night’s sleep. But stumbling around in the dark can get dangerous – just ask your friends with older kids if they’ve ever stepped on a Lego. A night light that only comes on with motion or a gentle tap is one easy, happy medium. A flashlight can be another, though it may be a little trickier to juggle.

So what are the reasons not to use night lights? There’s a significant body of research suggesting that exposure to light during the night can lead to less restful or more scattered sleep patterns, since light can get in the way of the body’s production of melatonin. Some studies draw links between exposure to light at night, especially blue-tinted light, and both sleep and health problems, including mood disorders and depression. Most of the research done on the subject tests the effects of significantly stronger lights than night lights, but many sleep experts recommend the darkest sleep environment possible for restful sleep.

Choosing the right night light

If you do choose to add a little illumination to baby’s room at night, there are two important things to keep in mind. The first is that, in the interest of safety, the American Academy of Pediatrics suggests that any night lights used should be set up somewhere that isn’t near any fabric, like curtains or blankets, that could fall on it, and that any night light you choose should only emit cool light, instead of heating up the bulb. LED lights are a good option.

The second important consideration is the color of the bulb, and the light it produces. The health problems associated with light at night, including difficulty sleeping, mood disorders, and obesity, are all most strongly associated with blue or white light. This means that screens like TV, computer or tablet screens and compact fluorescent bulbs all have more potential for damage than other lights, and that dim red or amber lights are the best for sleep quality and health, if you are going to have them on in the bedroom.

So should I use a night light?

In the end, whether or not to use a night light in your child’s room is a personal choice depending on your child’s needs. Some families don’t feel the need for a night light, and many others find that night lights are useful and don’t interfere with their children’s sleep. If you do choose to use a night light, choosing a light that’s safe and healthy for sleep can help to avoid any sleep trouble that has been associated with exposure to brightness during the night.

  • “Blue light has a dark side.” Harvard Health Publications. Harvard University, September 2 2015. Web.
  • “Choosing the Right Light Bulbs for Your Home.” Sleep. National Sleep Foundation. Web.
  • “Make Baby’s Room Safe.” Healthy Children. American Academy of Pediatrics, November 21 2015. Web.
  • “What color is your night light? It may affect your mood.” Ohio State University. The Ohio State University, August 6 2013. Web.
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