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.

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.


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

  1. Maggie Dawsey Avatar
    Maggie Dawsey

    For the longest time we had night lights all through the house and in bedrooms to aide our 7 year old that was scared of the dark. Thanks to this article I realized this was not the best practice for the health of my family.
    Our solution was motion sensor night lights instead. We put them along the path our son takes if he wakes up scared and we put one in our bathroom for those times we get up too 🙂 So far it has worked out pretty well. We found these battery operated ones on amazon and they have a stand so you don’t have to mount them, and you can pack them with you for trips:

  2. Christine Allnutt Avatar
    Christine Allnutt

    For hundreds of thousands of years humans slept with a fire burning, either in a cave or on the savannah. Fire = safety from animal attacks and also mean you were with your tribe . It’s not really the amount of light so much as the colour and kind of light.

    It’s a soft , warm, reddish light. The flickering can be comforting too.

    I absolutely agree that the bluish light from electronics affects the pineal grand and the production of melatonin. Turn them off early in the evening.

    Basically, if you are a parent, use your common sense and replicate the more natural human environment. Some children sleep better in a light , noisy environment because they associate it with human contact. Some children need dark and quiet. All your children will be a little different in ideal sleep environment. Too bad if they have to share a room!

  3. Rachael Avatar

    Hi! My guy, a super tekkie, brought home this very expensive unit as a “prize” for me – I thought it was more for him lol. But it does work soooo well. 🙂 Lights all controlled by phone or tablet. Individual light control, great for study or relax – or party!. It has a mode that gently wakes you from across the room, or you can set auto timer. it has loads of colors, and even a fun disco strobe light for a fun Friday night in. Other apps can have lights respond to music 🙂 Very fun!! Even though they were definitely not a cheap toy, they make life so nice and I can read in bed and turn off at a moments notice. Also, has a function where you can just manually override, in case you need a light asap. Has been a very nice addition to our home. It’s the clapper of the future.
    Here’s a link on Amazon (although he got his at home depot) https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00A4EUUO8/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00A4EUUO8&linkCode=as2&tag=wellnessmama-20&linkId=6QBPCZXMIQ4JCCPD

  4. Amber Avatar

    Hi Katie!

    I love your blog so much! You have helped me a lot with my transition to a healthier life = ) I am wondering, my daughter likes to have SOME light in her room because she gets scared at night. We have artificial lights right out side her window, so moonlight is not an option. Do you know about, or have an opinion on, the NUK Natural Sleep System Sound and Light Machine? https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00J40DRQG/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00J40DRQG&linkCode=as2&tag=wellnessmama-20&linkId=O4ZUPG4SKFVRV5YS

    It claims to have “amber” light rather than blue/white light. Would this be any better than a nightlight?

    Any help is very much appreciated. Thanks for all you do!

  5. Kat Avatar

    I will maybe buy that too much artificial light will make you sleep quality worse (I can’t sleep with night lights ect), but natural light I belive is fine. Moonshine and midnight sun for an example. I’m from the north of Scandinavia where it is light (even sun is up at places far enough north), at night for months, and people sleep and are not worse off health wise than anywhere else to my knowledge, And no, most people don’t have blinds but just learn how to sleep like that.

  6. Mariah Avatar

    Hi there, isn’t falling asleep to sound (like fans) bad for us? Like making us rely on that white noise to sleep? Not sure, thoughts?

  7. Katja Avatar

    The artical was very good and I liked reading everyone’s comments! I just started a new bed schedule. I go to bed every night at the same time. I also turn off ALL artificial light (TV, computer, regular lamps, overhead lights) one hour before bed and light a small candle. I have noticed that my neurologic illness has improved in only one week! I will keep you posted as to how my health responds to this new regime!

  8. Nate Avatar

    What has our society turned in to. So obsessed with safety and health that they want to force out night lights now? What the heck! Its a night light!! It helps some kids sleep better so please people stop writing stuff like “air conditioning is unhealthy!”. Have some fun and live a live. Geesh

    1. Paulo Avatar

      Wow, Nate. Sounds like you’re not getting enough quality sleep.

      Rather than just babies/children, you’re apparently unaware of the literally millions of people affected by insomnia due to our modern light-filled nights, let alone all the other health issues caused by artificial lighting.

      Surely you’ve heard of outdoor light pollution, and you’re probably against that. Well, night lights are indoor light pollution.

      Clearly you don’t know insomnia and lack of sleep are implicated in poor learning, inefficiency and error-prone sleep-deprived workers, vehicle accidents, dietary issues, and numerous other health problems. Sleep deprivation costs us millions of dollars and countless lives each year.

      Must I mention that inadequate melatonin production due to the blue wavelength in lights is also implicated in sundowning (severe agitation) for those afflicted by dementia.

      Light pollution is proven to effect many wildlife. Are humans so exceptional that somehow we’re immune to it.

      Perhaps in another several millenia humans will adapt to artificial lighting, but for now even astronauts on the International Space Center use special lighting to regulate their circadian rhythms. But I guess you know better than NASA.

      1. Hana Avatar

        Paulo you missed what Nate was even saying. Dim Night lights less than 10 lux are not causing depression, car accidents and insomnia. You are making this a much bigger issue than kids sleeping with tiny lights in their corners. While I agree that exposure to bright, artificial light late at night is not good for health, I think you are being a little extreme in your attack on Nate.

      2. Audrey Fischer Avatar
        Audrey Fischer

        Paulo is correct.

        Dr George Brainard has done extensive research on circadian disruption due to arificial light at night for NASA to benefit the astronauts aboard the ISS. The lighting aboard the ISS will be redone because of what has been learned. His research indicates that blue wavelength is the most disruptive to the human circadian, with dim red and dim amber being the least disruptive. We can apply the same information to protect ourselves and our loved ones.Dr Brainard recommends the use of a dim amber or dim red night light — placed low to the floor, if possible, where needed in the bedroom, hall and bathroom. I also recommend reading the research papers by Dr David Blask and team from Tulane University School of Medicine. His team discovered that not only can artificial light at night (ALAN) increase the risks of certain cancers, but also kill the cure, by rendering Tamoxifen and many other chemotherapy drugs ineffective. ALAN causes circadian disruption and the inability of the body to produce melatonin. A streetlight shining through typical bedroom windows or a standard night light, or a blue light from a clock radio or phone, etc are all examples of a light source capable of circadian disruption. Dim red or dim amber night lights are safe. Natural moon light is safe. Blue light at NIGHT is harmful. Blue light during the day, especially morning will maximize the amount of melatonin your body will produce at night. Shutting off TV, computers or electronics 1-2 hours before bedtime will minimize delay of your body producing melatonin. If you can’t avoid the computer screens, for example– a hospital’s patient room is full of monitors with harmful lighting (which by all means OUGHT TO BE covered with a simple thin blue-blocking film), wear blue-blocking glasses, use blue-blocking films on the monitor. Sleeping masks are effective (if you don’t take them off in the middle of the night) because only your eyes need to be in the dark. Only some portions of the ganglionic cell layer of the retina is capable of sending a signal to the SCN part of the brain, the chief regulator of the master clock. The results from the “light behind the knee” research paper has never been duplicated and has been disregarded in current circadian study.) Some of you may be interested in this free 2-day workshop… parts of it will be webcasted. https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/pubhealth/roc/candidates/meetings/workshop_alan.html Workshop: Shift Work at Night, Artificial Light at Night, and Circadian Disruption Hosted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Studies/ National Toxicology Program.

    2. Paulo Avatar


      PS: I neglected to mention sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). There’s a reason many people in Seattle are depressed and some commit suicide, and it’s not because of Starbucks or grunge music.

      What to you is just a night light, is to others the equivalent of a lighthouse.

    3. Kat Avatar

      I agree with Nate. There are bigger fish to fry when it comes to what we should be worrying about. If having a night light brings you comfort, so be it.

  9. Kristine Manley Avatar
    Kristine Manley

    I just got rid of the night light in my master bathroom after reading this article, and the difference in my sleep is amazing! I don’t wake up tired and with a feeling that I have to lay down just a little longer. Thank you so very much for this information, and I’ll be sharing this with friends and family.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I am so glad it is working for you! The importance of good, deep, healthy sleep cannot be underestimated, and I am happy for you that you are getting some!

  10. Siusan Avatar

    I am really, really excited to try this. My daughter has had a night light since she transitioned to her own room/crib at 3 months (she outgrew the bassinet and HATED co-sleeping … I wasn’t ready for her to go, but she did NOT like sharing her space and, like her daddy, had a definite preferred bedtime and didn’t like any noise or disruption then) … but the night light was for me to be able to see to get to her (we have no plugs in our hallways and a very tiny house that overheads flood the whole space), and I have read several articles on the need for total darkness to get good sleep but couldn’t figure out how I was supposed to be able to get to her quickly without scrambling for flashlights, etc and be able to see to get to her without waking her up further … and I just heard about salt lamps a month or two ago and plan to go get a couple to place strategically in rooms off the hallway to give me light to see by, without it filling the nursery! This will also be excellent for being able to see as I attempt (for the second time, hopefully successfully this time) breastfeeding my newborn due in May, and will probably feel like I need to see at first to get it right.

  11. Lori Avatar

    We’ve started using blue blocker light bulbs in several lamps. These are orange and can be purchased online or at Home Depot–they are sold as “party” bulbs. At sunset, we turn on the lamps with these bulbs and enjoy the soft light. After about a week, I really started appreciating how gentle they are on you–if I accidently turned a regular light on it seemed so harsh! I think it is especially helpful during the winter when the days are short. The only down side is that I love to read before bed and these bulbs don’t offer enough light for that. Maybe I’ll try putting my feet up instead!

    I also concur on the tart cherry juice. I put a little in a martini glass and fill it with a sparkly mineral water. I usually sleep great after that!

    And thanks Katie for your great website! I’ve followed you for years now and so appreciate your helpful posts!

  12. Nancy Avatar

    My fiance and i sleep in a totally dark room, my 10 yr old however has night terrors and if we dont have a light in his room he doesnt sleep at all! Pure darkness is not good for everyone!

  13. Asha Avatar

    I have slept without a night light for a long time but then I started having recurring nightmares so I now sleep with a green night light. I can’t sleep without any light now but when I wake up at night the light suddenly seems really bright, why is this, also is there any light I could use that is better for me but still means I can see in the dark, I don’t have any disorders.

    1. Paulo Avatar

      A green light seems brighter when you wake during the night because the pupils of your eyes are wide open due to having closed eyes…your eyes have adjusted to see better in darkness.

      When you’re first going to sleep, your eyes haven’t adjusted for darkness yet, so your pupils are closed and not letting as much light in to your eyes.

  14. Hana Avatar

    As an early childhood sleep researcher I disagree with this article. Light under 10 lux (much brighter than most night lights) has been found to not disrupt melatonin’s natural secretion patterns which in fact onset 2 hours BEFORE bedtime. This means that early evening light exposure is much more responsible for disrupting the circadian rhythm than night lights in a bedroom. Children who are genuinely afraid of the dark will have more sleep problems if they are not allowed a night light as this causes anxiety. Bottom line: night lights are not the problem. Letting your children watch TV, play video games, or sit in front of artificially lit computer screens in the evening is the problem.

  15. ryan Avatar

    Cheaper way to basically follow this guide is just use a red bulb in the night light base. Use those in rooms, hallways, and bathrooms. Ive done research and found that works perfectfully fine and that seems to be the cheapest thing to do instead of spending 20-30 on a bulky salt lamp.

  16. Katie Neal-Rizzo Avatar
    Katie Neal-Rizzo

    You may want to do some research on the dangers of noise machines on brain development as well before recommending those over nightlights.

  17. Kirsty Avatar

    I’m looking into designing a product to help children with a fear of the dark, if you could replicate the light given off by the Himalayan salt lamp would that be a healthier alternative to the classic nightlight?

  18. Lorraine Avatar

    My son sleeps with a salt lamp we never turn it off. Do you think I should turn it off at night?

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