If you're a parent I'm sure you've asked yourself the following at some point: Does my child need a night light? Will they be able to sleep in the dark? Will the light keep them up? Perhaps your child needs the night light due to some developing fears of the dark or mom and dad want some light when they go and check on baby. There are many reasons why you could install a night light but there are also reasons it may be best not to. I share the pros and cons on whether to light or not to light below.
When It's a Good Idea
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 two 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. 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.
Tip! Always choose a yellow or red coloured bulb over a blue or white light.
Need for New Parents
Many families of young babies that I work with use the night light more for them than for the child. 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 four to seven watts and no brighter.
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
It Disrupts Sleep
As a sleep professional, I do like to 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.
Play Time Doesn't Equal Bedtime
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. What's happening is now they are pushing into their age appropriate bedtime, which means their sleep debt will be on the rise. These distractions turn into a sleep buster and ones you may want to avoid.
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.
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.