It’s night time. You’re in a deep slumber. Your child is sleeping soundly. All is right with the world.
Or so you thought.
If you’ve ever been woken in the middle of the night by a scared child, you may have asked yourself one – or all – of these questions: Does my child need a night light? Will they be able to sleep in the dark? Will the light keep them up? What do I do?? Is it okay to use a night light?
There are many reasons why it might be okay to install a night light in your child’s room. But there are also reasons it may be best not to and you may need some toddler sleep help. Here are the top pros and cons.
When it’s a good idea to use a night light:
- For comfort. Having a night light on for your toddler could be that added reassurance when things start going bump in the night. Nightmares can begin as early as 2 years of age and when nightly fears develop, adding a night light could provide some comfort to your child. Understand why they need it: what is scaring them and be sure to address the core issue first. If your child needs the night light for comfort, let them have it. If it means helping them feel safe and secure in their environment and promotes better sleep for all, then it’s not a battle you need to have.
- For newborn nightly visits. Many families of young babies use a baby night light more for them than for the infant. It helps them see what is going on in the room when they are checking diapers or giving those nightly feeds. As long as you don’t turn on the overhead light and the night light isn’t too bright, it’s fine. But try to turn it off once your child is sleeping through the night.
Tip! If you are going to use a night light try a bulb between 4-7 watts and no brighter.
- For potty training. Arming your newly night trained child with their own night light or flashlight is a great way to encourage some independent potty trips to the bathroom. Equipping the hallway and bathroom with a small night light so they can see the way to the potty is also a good idea.
When it’s time to turn off the light:
- When it disrupts sleep. As a sleep professional, I encourage a dark sleep environment. Darkness is what cues our brains to release our natural sleep hormone melatonin. It turns our sleep switch on. Having too bright an environment can turn that switch off and mess around with our natural circadian rhythms. This is why it’s important to power down all bright screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime and start your calming bedtime routine with your child in their dark, quiet and cool bedroom.
Tip! Always choose a yellow or amber natural light bulb over blue or white night lights.
- When they’re playing instead of sleeping. Being able to see in their room because of the night light could mean more play time for your child when they should be trying to go to bed. Maybe you have a toddler who stays up too late playing with his toys, or your school aged child can’t stop reading their book. Now they’re pushing out their age-appropriate bedtime, which means their sleep debt will be on the rise.
Tip! Gradually dim the light by lowering the wattage for a week or so. This way they can slowly get used to sleeping in the dark.
If you are going to use a night light in your childs room it’s important to make sure you are using one that won’t hinder your child’s sleep. Stick to warm colours like reds and yellows rather then blue and white LED’s.
Good Night Sleep Site’s Approved Night Light Roundup
It’s always best to understand why your child may need a night light. Is it due to fears or playtime? Is it going to hinder sleep or encourage it? There isn’t a right or wrong answer here. Night lights can affect each child differently and you may not know if they can do with or without it until you try.