"Too dark for me." That is what my little two year old yells as soon as we turn the lights out at night. Don't worry, it's not that dark, but appears so right when the light goes out. After a few minutes his eyes have adjusted to the darkness and he is good to go... to bed. But how do we know if our toddlers need a night light and which one is the right one? Maybe this seems like a silly question, but as I've meet with hundreds of clients many are using a light that can actually cause disruption to sleep.
When should we introduce a night light?
I recommend starting out in a completely dark room for your babies. This isn't scary for them, and can actually be soothing because their eyes won't get overstimulated taking in everything in their room. As our little ones grow this changes. Once a child can verbally request that they want more light, it may be time to introduce some.
What is the best nightlight to keep sleep intact?
The most important piece of any nightlight is the kind of light it emits. Remember that a traditional light bulb works much like the sun to our brains. It tells our brains it is time to wakeup and the body will stop producing melatonin . We want the nightlights we choose to be as dim as possible and we want to look for a nightlight that is orange or red. Orange light affects the brain differently than blue light or a regular light bulb. Orange light does not inhibit the production of melatonin making it the ideal light for nighttime use.
You may also want to consider if you want one that stays on all night or turns off and on, like a motion sensor light or hall light later turned off. I believe that one of the best ways to cut down on nighttime sleep disturbances for your child is to make the sleep environment consistent throughout the night. Then when your child wakes in the middle of the night he won't be startled by how dark it is and cry out for you.
Some families have used lava lamps as a light. This is a great option! If you are looking for a basic night light here is an option for you:
Will we always need night lights?
As my children have gotten older, having a night light has been less and less of a priority for them. Some still prefer it and others are fine with the darkness. It varies from one child to the next. However, we have completely transitioned away from night lights for my older kids. As kids get older reading before bed has becoming more and more popular. In the summer months this was easy from the late sunset. As the sun sets earlier and earlier I ended up with restless children when it was too dark to read. They would delay bedtime, resist bedtime, and leave their rooms at an astonishing rate. I knew we needed something!
At first, I tried audiobooks while they laid in bed. But it was so noisy. Some enjoyed and others weren't into it and some just wanted a different story. It wasn't a good fit for us to do that at bedtime. Eventually I landed on individual reading lights for my big kids. I made sure that they were dim and used an orange light. They are rechargeable and have up to 70 hours of reading time. It has been fantastic! My kids can head to bed and read for a bit without disturbing each other or their own melatonin production.
Good luck! I hope you all have the light you need without ruining your sleep. Remember, if you are dealing with some unique challenges we would love to be able to troubleshoot with you and find what will work for your family. Schedule you free 15 min call today so we can help you choose what will help you the most!
1. Figueiro, M. G., Wood, B., Plitnick, B., & Rea, M. S. (2011). The impact of light from computer monitors on melatonin levels in college students. Neuro endocrinology letters, 32(2), 158–163.