Why My Kids Don’t Have a Night Light

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Why Our Kids Don't Have a Nightlight and yours shouldn't either
Wellness Mama » Blog » Health » Why My Kids Don’t Have a Night Light

I’ve written several times about the importance of sleep to overall health. One important aspect of this is to optimize the sleep environment and sleep in complete darkness. I’ve gotten emails from readers who noticed a profound difference in their sleep quality and energy/attitude by making this simple change (such as turning off the ever present night light). Please pardon me while I get on a soap box for a few minutes.

The Night Light: What’s the Problem?

Exposure to light during the night has been implicated in depression, increased cancer risk and decreased hormone function. As this post explains:

“Light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, a hormone that naturally promotes sleep. “Even if you doze off, light can be detected through your eyelids—and your brain won’t produce melatonin if it’s confused between night and day,” says Joyce Walsleben, PhD, associate professor at the New York University School of Medicine. ‘You want as much darkness in your bedroom as you can handle without tripping over things.’”

A good (cool and dark) night time environment is vital for hormone health, yet we often put lights in kids’ rooms. Only within the last 100 years has this even been a possibility. Before that, there was a natural cycle of light and darkness and while people might have had candles or lamps after dark, there would not have been lights on all night.

More and more research is emerging that shows a link between night time exposure to light and health problems. From this post:

“A report published by the CDC 11 years ago showed some fascinating evidence linking lack of sleep to cancer. The study reported that profoundly blind women had less than half the breast cancer risk of women with normal vision and profoundly blind men had less than half the risk of prostate, lung, colon and other cancers as normally sighted men.

Even more interesting, this reduced risk of cancer was not present in those who were legally blind but could still see light.

This led researchers to investigate the link between exposure to light (especially after the sun has gone down) and rates of disease.

Further studies revealed that night shift workers have higher rates of many diseases and that blue and green types of lights (from computers, TVs, alarm clocks, mobile phones, etc.) are the worst offenders.”

Importance for Kids

Night time light exposure can decrease sleep quality, but it can also shorten the duration of sleep, leading to further problems:

“Moreover Dr. Phyllis C. Zee, the director of the Sleep Disorders Center at Northwestern Memorial Hospital reports:

“There is growing evidence for a link between sleep duration and childhood obesity… [P]erhaps even more important than sleep duration is the effect of day to day variability of sleep wake timing on weight regulation.””

Harvard Medical School echoes some important reasons to get enough sleep:

  1. “Learning and memory: Sleep helps the brain commit new information to memory through a process called memory consolidation. In studies, people who’d slept after learning a task did better on tests later.
  2. Metabolism and weight: Chronic sleep deprivation may cause weight gain by affecting the way our bodies process and store carbohydrates, and by altering levels of hormones that affect our appetite.
  3. Safety: Sleep debt contributes to a greater tendency to fall asleep during the daytime. These lapses may cause falls and mistakes such as medical errors, air traffic mishaps, and road accidents.
  4. Mood: Sleep loss may result in irritability, impatience, inability to concentrate, and moodiness. Too little sleep can also leave you too tired to do the things you like to do.
  5. Cardiovascular health: Serious sleep disorders have been linked to hypertension, increased stress hormone levels, and irregular heartbeat.
  6. Disease: Sleep deprivation alters immune function, including the activity of the body’s killer cells. Keeping up with sleep may also help fight cancer.”

The research I’ve seen shows that white and blue lights are especially harmful at night since these are the same colors of light that the body would be exposed to during the day and they trick the body in to thinking it is day time.

What to Do About It

Making the change to complete darkness as an adult is a relatively easy process that mainly involves figuring out how to make the bedroom dark. The process isn’t always so easy for children, especially for children who are used to a night light or who have a fear of the dark.

With all the research showing the importance of night time darkness, I felt strongly that this was something I wanted my kids to do. It took a little time to get all of the kids used to sleeping in darkness, but we finally have.

We converted our kids’ bedrooms to better sleep environments by:

  • Removing night lights, alarm clocks, etc
  • Keeping the house cooler at night to facilitate better sleep
  • Covering windows with blackout curtains to cover artificial light from street lights and to help heating and cooling costs.
  • Using sound machines to help them stay asleep
  • Using red tone lights (like these Himalayan salt lamps that also clean the air) in hallways and bathrooms so they could see to go to the bathroom if needed but there wasn’t any blue or white light to disrupt sleep.

Helpful Tips

These tips were helpful along the way:

  • The kids really liked the Himalayan Salt Lamps. We didn’t put these in their rooms, but they liked that there was light in the hallway and bathroom if they needed it.
  • We  use blackout curtains because we have artificial light outside and these also help with heating and cooling costs.
  • Using sound machines helped sooth them to sleep and help them stay asleep. We use these machines with the kids because they can be plugged in instead of using batteries and the “rain” sound is a definite favorite.
  • The first few nights making this switch with our oldest, we turned on the sound machine first and read to him with the light on. Then, we turned off the light but left the door open with the salt lamp in the hallway. From here, we slowly worked up to putting him to sleep with the door closed and complete darkness.
  • Avoiding TV at night also helped. The blue light from TV suppressed melatonin, making it harder for them to fall asleep.
  • Letting older kids drink a cup of chamomile tea with a little honey (helps with any hypoglycemia issues) and some butter blended in to it. The healthy fats support hormone function and this combination has been great for sleep.
  • Rubbing Magnesium Body Butter on their feet before bed (and putting socks on). The magnesium helps promote sleep and is beneficial in other ways too.
  • Switching to organic mattresses also made a big difference for us, especially for our son who we were working on reversing allergies with. The light made a bigger difference, so I wouldn’t put new mattresses as the highest priority (we had to save for a long time for them) but they were helpful too.
  •  Explaining it to them: We’ve found that our kids often make healthy choices when given the information to help them do so. We talked to our older kids about the reasons night lights were not good for them and let them be involved in the decision to get rid of the night lights.

Do your kids have night lights? Ever thought about removing them? Share below!

A night light can disrupt sleep, and light at night time has been linked to increased caner risk, hormone imbalances, depression and other health problems.


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Katie Wells Avatar

About Katie Wells

Katie Wells, CTNC, MCHC, Founder of Wellness Mama and Co-founder of Wellnesse, has a background in research, journalism, and nutrition. As a mom of six, she turned to research and took health into her own hands to find answers to her health problems. WellnessMama.com is the culmination of her thousands of hours of research and all posts are medically reviewed and verified by the Wellness Mama research team. Katie is also the author of the bestselling books The Wellness Mama Cookbook and The Wellness Mama 5-Step Lifestyle Detox.


109 responses to “Why My Kids Don’t Have a Night Light”

  1. Christina Avatar

    Do you have recommendations for a toddler training clock that does NOT have a night light?? My son is 2, and for the past several months, have been waking up too early in the morning, crying hysterically to be tended to. It is exhausting and stressful for everyone — including the neighbors!!! I want to teach him to stay quiet and wait until “the morning” to get up by using a toddler training clock, but every single clock I’ve looked into (including the famous Glo Clock from the UK), all have built-in nightlights that you can’t shut off!!! Is there a clock that does NOT have a light???

    1. Casey Avatar

      I have one that lights up (green) only when you have set it to (“time to wake”). Works great, until they get their hands on it to play with. 😉 I recommend putting it where they can’t reach. Now, what is it called… Hm. I think if you search for “time to wake” you will find it. It is white with a pink or green face plate (interchangeable) and shaped like a ball with two little feet (with green buttons). Another mom – who suggested it to me – says she put little socks on the feet to remove temptation. Hope that helps!

      1. Grace g Avatar

        You’re talking about the Onaroo Okay to Wake clock. We love it. I do keep it out of reach to prevent our toddler from using the nightlight. I wish they had one that plugged in but we use rechargeable batteries and they last about 9 months!!

    2. Claire Avatar

      We have a gro clock, and also found the light was too bright. We still use it, but you can set the brightness for night time to ‘0’, and this is no light at all. Then when the sun appears, it does light up. Ours is almost 4 years old though, so maybe this is not the newest model.

    3. Meagan Avatar

      We just use a normal led nightlight on a timer. Works exactly the same and less than half the cost of the fancy toddler alarm clocks,

    4. Heather Avatar

      My daughter could read time at 2, so I covered it with a towel and she could uncover it in the morning to see if it was wake time. Worked for a long time until she started playing with it at night.

    5. Heather Avatar

      My daughter could read time at 2, so I covered it with a towel and she could uncover it in the morning to see if it was wake time. My second daughter based it off the first number on the clock (hour)-got us close enough. Worked for a long time until she started playing with it at night.

      We have never done night lights for our kids because I read years ago it may cause near sightedness. Personally, I can’t sleep if my husband is even charging his phone. The little blue light wakes me. If he brings it in the room he has to put it under the bed or put a towel on top.

      For those of you with kids who are scared off the dark, all my kids went through a phase where they became scared of the dark. Invisible “Fairy Dust” sprinkled over their bodies worked for a while. Told them not to move too much or it would fall off.

  2. jemima Avatar

    Is it ok if I cover my face with my comforter? I do it every night. I’m also afraid of darkness.

  3. KT Avatar

    This is interesting. I am from the UK and always had to have my bedroom totally dark to fall asleep as there were many street lights on my street. Without a blind and curtains my room would glow! Then I moved to Australia and found people here don’t black their windows out as much as they have fewer street lamps. I still cover my windows up completely and my kids windows too as I cannot sleep with any light in my room. But funnily enough when we go on our holiday (to a very remote and deserted coastal area) we sleep in a house with no curtains or blinds. The moonlight streams through the windows and guess what – we all sleep deeply and soundly. In fact, its the best sleep we get!

  4. Katy Avatar

    Will an eye mask work just as well as blacking out the room if your body only detects light through the eyelids? I’ve found it difficult to black out my room and also for traveling. The eye mask is easy but I want to make sure that it works just as well. Thank you!

        1. Ange Avatar

          I have read in Suzanne Somer’s books (her books are fantastic and have helped me a lot, especially Breakthrough, Knockout and Bombshell) that there have been studies done and light is definitely absorbed through the skin as well. From what I can recall, they proved by placing the subject in a pitch black room and putting a tiny pin light behind the knees under the covers while they’ve slept and it affected them.

          So that’s when I got rid of the digital clock that showed the time in red at night.
          The cell phone is really bad too and should probably be at least 6 feet away from you anyway..

          1. Hana Avatar

            Suzanne Somer is not a sleep researcher. Although light may be detected by the skin, there’s no research that suggests light detected by skin affects circadian rhythm (body clock). This is supported by the fact that blind people don’t have circadian rhythms.

          2. Bella Avatar

            I don’t allow my children to sleep with nightlights. They are 2.5 and 7 years and have slept in complete darkness since they were babies. I have a chronic illness that has, as a symptom, sleep disruption. I was constantly tired. I saw a tip online to use the outdoor canvas fabric used to cover lawn chair pillows to completely black out windows. Some people use tin foil. I used the black canvas and tacked it over my frame on top of the blinds and there is not a shred of light that comes through. Plus I have curtains over that for aesthetic purposes.

            I use a sleep mask as well and only use a nightlight in the bathroom and kitchen. People comment how they sleep so well when they come to my home…maybe because I keep the room very dark and I keep it cool. I also limit light from the other windows so that if I have to get up briefly, I’m not blasted with sunlight or artificial light before I have to be up for the day. I blacked out my kids’ window too. Have little to no issue with preventing them from getting up with the sun on weekends! 🙂

            I cover my red tone alarm clock with a piece of paper when I’m going to bed. I find that it keeps me awake because I will find myself looking at the clock, and also the light does make a difference despite the fact that I wear a sleep mask.

  5. Erica Avatar

    Thank you for this post! My eight-year-old son is extremely afraid of the dark and deals with sensory issues and anxiety. He MUST have the light on when he goes to sleep, or he will have a panic attack. It’s frustrating, but I don’t really know that there is anything we can do about it. We let him fall asleep with the light on, and then we turn it off. We have come a long way from the days when he had to have it on all night!

    1. Maree Avatar

      I have the same problem as above. While the posts here would help with my younger my older has sensory and anxiety issues and the no light at all is definately a no go. I found also the dimmer light created more shadows and the anxiety increased and then there was no sleeping. I like the idea but I guess its not a fit for all. I am looking forward to the day i don’t have to sit beside the bed for hours calming the older one to sleep. I like the magnesium thought…..

      1. Jessica Avatar

        Why not try a red light. Red actually creates fewer shadows than regular light. Maybe one of those salt lamps if they glow red.

      2. Amy P Avatar

        My daughter uses a nightlight, but my son doesn’t. For my daughter, I bought the SPOKA nightlight from Ikea – the one that turns red (it cycles through pink and orange as well, but you can ‘freeze’ it on whichever colour you like). Now that she’s older I’ve convinced her to add a small pink blanket over top of it to dim it even further. The red is gentler on the eyes – I got the idea because my husband works on a navy ship and they only use red light at night to preserve their night vision. She’s been using this rechargeable nightlight for well over two years now and it still holds its charge all night, so it’s definitely worth the $17! It’s portable and can be carried with her to the bathroom, and I also bought a second one to use while nursing my son so I could see (just barely) enough to change a diaper in the dark but not wake me or him up too much. Hope that helps!

        1. Sims Avatar

          A blanket over a light? That’s just begging to start a fire…

          1. Amy P Avatar

            Ha, it does sound sketchy! It’s an LED light completely encased in a plastic and then silicone casing. You might have to see it to get what I mean. I have no concerns about it being near fabric.

        2. Krystal Avatar

          Hi there!

          So this SPOKA light seems neat, my daughter is afraid of the dark and is insisting on a night light (she never needed one before). She has the turtle that emits stars on the wall but that shuts off after a certain time and she needs something on all night. Does this SPOKA stay on all night? Also, I am super paranoid about fires starting from regular night lights (the reason I have never gotten one of the plugin ones). Is this plugged into the wall or does it use batteries? If it plugs into the wall, would you say that it is pretty safe?

  6. Brianne Grogan Avatar
    Brianne Grogan

    We just got amber tinted goggles for the whole family to wear after dinner (decreasing exposure to blue light after sunset) and my 6-year-old son loves his so much he wore them to bed. Fell asleep with them on! We removed them, of course… But it was cute. 🙂

  7. Dadinho Robelly Avatar
    Dadinho Robelly

    Has anyone tried those glasses that are supposed to filter out most blue light? Katie, there is a product review I´d love to read.

  8. Vivian Cheng Avatar
    Vivian Cheng

    My son, now 7, slept with a night light up until about a year ago. It took a bit of time to transition, as he’d just turn on his bedside light himself if he woke up at night. I’m not sure what prompted him to accept the change, but we just kept telling him how he’d sleep more soundly if he tried sleeping without it on. And now, he does 🙂

  9. Rishel Kessinger Avatar
    Rishel Kessinger

    Another great alternative might be to replace one nightlight for a better one. There’s this device called Luness that was originally designed to help women regulate their menstrual cycle and aid natural family planning. The whole idea behind it is that you’re supposed to be exposed to varying amounts of moonlight while you sleep. It seems to have a high success rate for its intended purpose and, hormones being what they are, accidentally turned out being great for improving other hormone regulation issues and improving sleep quality. I am by no means endorsing it, because I haven’t tried it myself. Right now, it’s prohibitively expensive to buy the device itself (and apparently something really wonky is going on with their online store at the moment,) and I’m not keen on using the app version. Hopefully they bring the price down soon or someone else develops a similar product.
    Anyway, it’s just a nifty idea that I thought I would share. If I couldn’t use something like that as a nightlight for my (future) kids, it would be dark bedrooms all the way.

  10. Erica Price Kendall Avatar
    Erica Price Kendall

    Good article! I don’t have kids yet but I have noticed a difference when its pitch black in our room. I noticed a bigger difference when I forced my husband to kick the TV out of the bedroom. We sleep so good now

  11. Jefferson Avatar

    Great post.

    For my 2 year old daughter, we have been using one of those silly “dream lights”, which are basically animals with a nightlight on their back that project shapes (stars and moons) on the ceiling. The great thing about those toys is that the light shuts off automagically after about 5 minutes.

    1. Stephen Avatar

      My daughter doesn’t sleep without a nightlight… she turns the room light on after we’ve left and then falls right to sleep. We have to go in and turn it off later. She’s 10 now.

      Yes she CAN sleep without a nightlight… but red light shouldn’t hurt your sleep at all. (Unless you’re OCD and demand complete darkness.)

  12. Jennifer Avatar

    It’s so funny that you posted this today, because I just bought a himalayan salt lamp for my boys’ room, figuring I’d leave it on as a night light so it could purify the air as they slept. Since that’s the room they spend the most time in, would you recommend having the salt lamp on all day so it can do it’s thing while they’re at school, then turning it off at night?

  13. christine Avatar

    Yikes! I just followed this over from FB… and, for what it’s worth, *I* think it’s an excellent article and you’re right–my kids *shouldn’t* have night lights!
    (They don’t, but we live in the city… so they have street lights!)
    I’ve been looking into blackout curtains for my bedroom… with the idea of regulating my monthly cycle with the moon… but you’ve inspired me to get blackout curtains for the kids’ rooms too!
    Thank you! 🙂

  14. Rachel Avatar

    I’d be interested to know how the moon affects this. We don’t have any blinds in our bedroom (we also live in a rural town so there is no other lights). We don’t have any electronic lights in our bedroom either…just the moonlight.

    I mean, realistically, it’s not like humans ever were in total darkness when sleeping outdoors.


      1. Amanda Avatar

        Have you tried a low red light? I have read that it mimics fire light, and doesn’t change your melatonin levels. I have them in my home. Thoughts? Sorry if someone has already asked this

    1. Jennifer L. Avatar
      Jennifer L.

      I wonder about the moon light too. Sometimes our room is very bright from the moon, and we have blinds. It’s really hard to keep all the surrounding light from entering our room.

    2. Sierra Avatar

      I was wondering this same thing. If you want to be aligned with the full moon, moonlight is actually needed. I sleep better in full dark, but am looking forward to trying the moon cycling this month!

  15. Helen D Staten Avatar
    Helen D Staten

    I have nyctophobia, so I have a salt lamp and purple fairy lights in my dorm to help. The light is dim and not sharp, but it gives me the ability to go to sleep in peace. If I’m in pitch darkness, I start having panic attacks. Good ideas though!

  16. Lori Appleman Avatar
    Lori Appleman

    My kids never had night lights though I kept one in the bathroom. I told them that I’d had monster proof glass installed before we moved in. That actually worked really well. Another trick I’ve heard of but didn’t use was to take a bottle of air freshener and create a custom label for “Monster Repellant.” This works because the smell reminds them that it keeps monsters away.

    1. Leisha Avatar

      A spray bottle on the mist setting with a little lavender oil works wonders too as it has calming properties

  17. Vanetta Luke Avatar
    Vanetta Luke

    Any recommendations for healthy sleep promotion for those, such as myself, who work 12 hour night shifts at the hospital?

    1. Rita Avatar

      I am SO NOT a medical professional, but my guess would be to use blackout curtains when you sleep and also get one of those UV-less special lights that help your body produce the stuff that the sun helps it produce. I’ve had a friend be greatly helped by them who had Seasonal Affective Disorder.

  18. Jacqueline Chiapa Avatar
    Jacqueline Chiapa

    My children did not have night lights at all. My nephew that I cared for for 18 months (51/2 to 7) had a night light but i got rid of it, mostly for the reasons you cite. I have a night light, though not in the bedroom, as I am scared of the dark (a long, complicated story, as I love the outside dark.). What you say makes sense.

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