We all know that light can affect how well we sleep at night, but a common question is can a night light affect sleep? The simple answer is, Yes! Some parents like to have night lights in their children’s nursery so that when they go in to do a middle of the night feeding, or want to check the temperature of the room, they don’t injure themselves trying to maneuver around in the dark. Other parents like the night light because they believe their child needs it, or even worry they may have a fear of the dark. Depending on the age of your child, the latter reason is less likely to be the case. In fact, most types of light can negatively affect how we (as children and adults) sleep at night.
Why is this?
When we are exposed to light, our melatonin production is suppressed. Melatonin is a natural sleep hormone that our body produces when it is getting close to bedtime. When it gets dark outside, our body naturally starts to produce it in order to signal us that it is time to relax. (This is one reason I highly suggest to clients to have their children’s rooms pitch black for nap time. Darkness helps our body naturally relax and get into that sleep state more easily).
During the day, sunlight is great because it allows us to function better and it increases our alertness throughout the day which can help us sleep better at night. However, when we expose ourselves to a lot of light at night, it has a negative effect on our sleep patterns. Watching television, playing on our phones, having every light in the house on, are all things that can negatively affect how well we sleep at night. Even a simple night light, or the blue light on your DVR can have an impact while you sleep. There has even been research that shows blue and white lights are not only damaging to our sleeping patterns, but also negatively effect our moods and can even cause major health issues.
Does this mean we have to live in complete darkness from 6pm-6am? Of course not! This is just something to keep in mind if you or your child do not sleep well at night. There are multiple things that can affect how we sleep, and although a simple night light is most likely not the underlying issue if you have a poor sleeper on your hands, but it is a small thing that can easily be adjusted that may help to achieve more restful nights.
Here are some simple changes that we can make to help our natural melatonin production:
- Limit Screen Time an Hour Prior to Bed. The blue & green light emitted from our devices mimic sunlight making it harder for our bodies to realize it’s time to relax and get ready for bed.
- Turn the Lights Down. Turning off the bright overhead lights and using side lamps in the evening can help our bodies naturally adjust for bedtime.
- Use Blackout Shades. Summer is here, and for a lot of our little kids, that means it doesn’t get dark until after bedtime. Blackout Shades are an amazing addition to our bedrooms so the sunlight doesn’t inhibit our melatonin production at nap & bedtime and allows for the sunrise not to wake us up too early in the morning. (I love recommending RediShade for blinds because you can size them to snuggly fit your windows, they are easy to install, and they don’t require holes in the walls for people that rent a home or apartment.
- Eliminate Night Lights. If you’re not ready to get rid of the night light, consider changing to a red/orange toned light which will have less effects on our body.
- Get plenty of rays during the day. Allow your body to get sunshine in the morning & afternoon to help your body stay on its proper circadian rhythm.