Why Night-lights are a No-No

Few things are more important for good health (and mommy’s sanity) than restful sleep. Many of us new moms are under the impression that keeping a night-light on for baby will help them sleep better and keep them from being scared of the dark. In fact, just the opposite might be true: One of the easiest ways to optimize sleep is to create an environment of complete darkness.

Having lights turned on can inhibit the secretion of melatonin, an important hormone that helps promote sleep. If your brain detects light, which it can do even through closed eyelids, your brain won’t produce sufficient levels of melatonin for deep, restorative sleep.

Not only can nighttime exposure to light make you sleepy in the morning, but the long-term health effects of not getting enough sleep can be worrisome. According to the Harvard Women’s Health Watch  some negative side effects of not getting enough sleep include:

  1. Changes in mood. Including impatience, irritability, trouble concentrating and mood swings.
  2. Learning and memory. Sleep helps the brain learn new information so it can create not only difficulty in learning new things but also in recalling information.
  3. Weight. Over long periods of time, inadequate sleep can alter the hormone levels that control appetite and the way the body processes and stores carbohydrates, which can lead to weight gain or slowed metabolism.
  4. Illness. Lack of restful sleep alters immune function, and lowered immunity can make you more susceptible to illness and disease.

The easiest way to make sure light isn’t creating sleep problems for your baby is to get the room as dark as possible. Get rid of night-lights and even digital clocks or any other electronics with glowing lights. Invest in some high-quality blackout curtains or heavy window shades that will keep out any shine from nearby street lamps or even the warm glow of the full moon.

Night-lights can be useful in the hallway to help you get to baby’s room safely, or in the bathroom to allow you or older kids to use the bathroom without having to turn on harsh overhead lights. But for bedrooms, night-lights are a no-no.

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor focused on nutrition and green living strategies. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception, through pregnancy, lactation and beyond to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mother and baby.

2 Responses to “Why Night-lights are a No-No”

  1. Kaitlin says:

    My husband and I sleep in the dark, and my kids are great at losing their night light(s), but neither of my kids will settle down if the room doesn’t have the night light. My daughter seriously screams and freaks out about how scared she is of the dark. I’m wondering if my son learned this from her since he now equally freaks out without the light and they share a room.

    My daughter didn’t always sleep with a light, only after she started freaking out about the room being pitch black. How can I take away the light if she’s really that scared? Ideas? Thanks! I mean, I agree and wish my kids slept in a dark room, but I’m not sure how to do that since taking away the light would lead to a lot of fear and screaming at this point.

    • Erin88 says:

      I think many kids dislike pitch-black rooms when they are trying to go to sleep, especially if they are alone. I would suggest either snuggling with her for a bit while she falls asleep (which is a great time to talk and process your day together) or leaving a light on in a hall or bathroom where it’s giving light to the room but not in the room. Or, you could always use it to help her to sleep and then turn it off once she is sleeping.