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Should I Use a Night Light for My Baby?

November 24, 2021

A quick Google search of “baby night light” produces over 1 billion results, indicating its popularity. When it comes to those late night diaper-changes and feedings, many parents consider a night light an essential item. Yet, other parents think there’s no place for a night light in a baby’s room. So, why the discrepancy? Should babies sleep with a night light? Or are they better off without one? Let’s take a closer look. 

Why Do People Utilize Baby Night Lights? 

The topic of whether or not to use a baby night light can be one of the more divisive topics when it comes to child-rearing. Caregivers who love night lights can’t stop singing their praises. Generally, there are a number of reasons why caregivers opt for a night light for their baby’s room: 

  • The light from a night light can soothe a child who’s scared of the dark
  • The night light can help prevent fumbling and tripping during late-night feedings or diaper-change trips
  • Light can create a more ambient environment for your baby, which can be soothing in times of separation anxiety
  • A soft light can make it easier to check on your sleeping baby instead of having to turn on a bright, abrasive light

Do Babies Need a Night Light? 

Although there are a number of practical reasons for utilizing a night light in your baby’s room, research indicates that they do more harm than good. In fact, some will go so far as to suggest that using a night light is the single largest mistake inhibiting a child’s sleep. Not only that, but using a night light can also contribute to frequent night waking along with fostering an environment in which it’s difficult to fall asleep in the first place. What exactly accounts for this claim? 

Well, it all depends on the color of the night light. Different colors of wavelength light have different effects on the human body, especially as it relates to sleep. Melatonin is a naturally produced hormone in the body. As it gets darker outside, this hormone is responsible for making you feel sleepy. On the other hand, cortisone is produced when you see daylight, white, or blue light. This hormone inversely makes you more alert. 

So, while researchers argue against night lights, they’re actually arguing against the color that’s commonly used in night lights. Most lights used in child night lights and other nighttime fixtures utilize white, blur or green hues. While these colors are marketed to be more relaxing, they actually have an inverse physiological effect. 

These lights inhibit the secretion of melatonin and promote the secretion of cortisone by tricking the brain into believing that there’s still natural daylight. This becomes even more problematic when children or babies are exposed to gadgets such as phones, iPads, or even TVs—this blue light can also be very disruptive to sleep patterns. 

What about Red Light?

Although white, blue, and green lights have negative effects, there is one type of light that isn’t as intrusive. Red light doesn’t necessarily improve sleep quality, but it also doesn’t interfere with the production of melatonin. If you want to utilize a baby night light, a red light would be the best option, as it would still provide light without interfering with sleep. 

Tips for Night Lights and Other Healthy Sleeping Habits 

If you’re interested in improving the quality of your baby’s sleep and developing healthy sleeping patterns, here are a few tips:

  • Be cognizant of any light that emits white, blue, or green light, and try to replace the light with one that emits a red hue.
  • Tape over the white light of products that may be near your baby’s crib (i.e. baby monitors or baby cameras).
  • Limit the amount of screen-time your baby or child is exposed to. Ideally, your baby shouldn’t be exposed to any screen within two hours of bedtime. 
  • Find ways to mimic the sunset. As the evening progresses, dim the lights around your house. 

Although it may seem like an adjustment to ditch the traditional night light, it’s important to understand how light color and light intensity affect sleep patterns, especially for babies. By finding solutions that limit the amount of white or blue light, your baby will be catching those Z’s in no time.

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Keith Simpkins

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