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. Yiota Avatar

    Hell no i have feared the dark ask a kid.my parents did this to me never forgive them about nightmares

  2. xiaofung Avatar

    I want to know about those projector lights. You know the ones that can project planets and water life. Are those safe? And do they help with sleep? The reason why I’m asking is because I want to get an alarm clock for my kids and I noticed that many of them have these projectors on them. I am thinking maybe it will help my kid stay in his room, but I don’t want it to be a distraction either. We currently have a red/orange light from their diffuser.

  3. Pam Avatar

    My 7 yo has had problems with bad dreams. I NEVER associated her dreams with nightlights! Since removing all night lights and adding black-out curtains…..no more bad dreams, I moved the large salt lamp we were using into the bathroom adjacent to her room, so she’s not afraid to go into the bathroom after dark.
    Who would have thought?
    It’s amazing that I’ve gone my whole life and 34 years as a mom, not knowing about night lights!
    Thank you SO much for sharing…

  4. Jan Avatar

    I noticed you use sound machine to aid sleep. Here is research don on having any kind of “white noise’ while trying to sleep..
    Possible Developmental Delays-

    It’s possible that a child’s brain may suffer negative effects with continuous exposure to background white noise, according to researchers connected with the University of California, San Francisco and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In the study, immature rats received exposure to constant white noise, simulating common noisy environments. Researchers determined that the rats experienced auditory development delays as a result of the noise levels. Later, when the rats’ environment returned to normal noise levels, auditory development matured to normal levels. It’s possible that overexposure to a sound machine could lead to impaired language acquisition and hearing.

    Several studies have indicated that stress resulting from ongoing white noise can induce the release of cortisol, a hormone that helps to restore homeostasis in the body after a bad experience. Excess cortisol impairs function in the prefrontal cortex—an emotional learning center that helps to regulate ‘executive’ functions such as planning, reasoning and impulse control. Some recent evidence indicates that the prefrontal cortex also stores short-term memories. Changes to this region, therefore, may disrupt a person’s capacity to think clearly and to retain information.
    Recent research also suggests that noise-induced stress may decrease dopamine availability in the prefrontal cortex, where the hormone controls the flow of information from other parts of the body. Stress resulting from background noise, then, may decrease higher brain function, impairing learning and memory.”
    Other Noise Effects

    Sustained and irritating noises may threaten a child’s psychological and physical health, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. In addition to language and hearing impairments, it’s possible that a child could also experience learning impairments and disturbances to the cardiovascular system. The EPA recommends a quiet sleeping environment for children.

    1. xiaofung Avatar

      I acknowledge this too, but my husband insist they have one in their room and now they have gotten use to it. I am trying to and would like to rid the noise maker, but it is hard to. Any suggestions for that? Could you give me the sources that you mentioned about in links so I can show them to my husband?

      Thank you

  5. Karyn Avatar

    I have tried to turn off my three year old’s lights once she is asleep and she just wakes up crying within an hour or two. So now we use two red night lights for her. I am trying to gradually remove them by situating them behind things but she wakes up if it is not enough light.
    I’m thankful the red lights are comforting enough for her.
    Should this be good enough given the research?

  6. Kristy Avatar

    What would you recommend for newborns. We are about to have our first baby and know that we will need to change diapers in the middle of the night for some time. I was going to keep a blue light filtered nightlight on at all times next to the changing table.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      A blue light filtered nightlight or a salt lamp is a great solution for nighttime diaper changes. (Though if it is encouraging, we’ve really only had to do night time changes for a few months with each baby). Congrats on your little one.

  7. Stefani Avatar

    My friend suggested putting a green lightbulb in our himalayan salt lamp and it works great so its not so bright

  8. Kathy Avatar

    Did you know that iPhone has a setting under display and brightness, in which you can change the screen lighting to orange instead o blue? You can sync it with the sunrise and sunset automatically.

  9. Sophia Avatar

    I am glad i found this post. For the past month or so my eight year old daughter has been waking several times a night saying she is scared. None of us are having any sleep. I was also really puzzled as before she had been a really deep sleeper and would hardly wake up. We normally had the hallway light on and that was enough light! Well a couple of months ago I bought her a globe LED light and I though to myself, well yes I realise she is waking up scared but why is she sleeping so lightly? Well yesterday after i read your post I turned off her night light. She slept in till five in the morning! I will not be using the night light from now on and I hope this is the end of her sleep issue.

  10. Kendra Avatar

    What about investing in eye sleep masks instead of curtains? I wear a mask to sleep

  11. Kristen Avatar

    Is any red tone light okay? Our daughters’ bathroom has a pink nightlight

  12. Anna Avatar


    I didn’t see this question elsewhere, so I apologize if it’s a repeat. My first child is coming in May and I’m planning to nurse and assume I will need to be up at night with her for a while. What do you do about waking up at night to feed and/or change baby? I do want her to sleep in total darkness but obviously want to see what I’m doing when I’m up with her.

    Thank you (and congrats on your newest addition – I loved reading the birth story)!

  13. Alexis Avatar

    Ive always used a Himilayian Salt Lamp (instead of a night light) in my daughters room. I assumed it had great benefits being left on all night. Is it not as harmful because as you stated its a different tone than a traditional light? Would love to know your thoughts on this thanks!

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      It is an orange tone, which is better at night, and what I would use if we were ever going to leave a light on at night for the kids, but mine definitely sleep better with no light.

  14. Claire Avatar

    HI, This was a great summary and we have already been doing these things but I do need to check on my children before I go to sleep or if they have a problem at night e.g. toilet, nightmare, illnness, covers come off etc… not often but sometimes I do need to check on them in the middle of the night. I have been using my mobile light for this and I know it’s the wrong type of light. I cannot find an orange hand held nightlight though. Do you know of one? Or a torch with an orange bulb …..? We do have a salt lamp where my 3 yr old sleeps but I find that very bright to turn on at night. I wanted something small handhelp and dim orange. If anyone knows of something like this please share! Thank you

  15. Tatyana Avatar

    Thanks for the info. I have heard of research citing noise machines to also be detrimental to sleep.

  16. Lori Avatar

    Seriously, have you never gone camping? The night is NOT black. There are stars and the moon. Since the creation of the Earth we have had light at night. If you simply can’t sleep with ANY light, get yourself a night mask (and some ear plugs for all the noise). For heaven’s sake, God created the heavens for a reason. What a bunch of balleyhoo.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      The difference is that light from the moon and stars is natural light, the lights in our homes is artificial and our bodies react to it differently…

  17. Leanne Avatar

    Does anyone have any recommendations for darker or otherwise less-disruptive night lights? I HATE the one in our own bedroom (little girl doesn’t have a night light) but my husband insists he’ll stub his toes or otherwise die without it….can you tell it’s driving me bonkers? I keep looking thru Amazon to no avail…i might need to cause an “accident” to happen to ours!

  18. Shae Avatar

    Some people, like myself, can’t sleep in total darkness without risking an episode wherein you can’t fully wake up all the way and you find yourself disoriented and confused in blackness. You shouldn’t advocate things for everyone across the board without knowing some of the conditions out there that do not lend themselves well to them.

    1. Wellness Mama Avatar

      I should hope that someone who has a condition like what you describe would know enough not to follow this advice. Clearly it does not apply to you, but that does not mean that it is bad for everyone.

  19. Deena Avatar

    Hi Katie,

    I found the sleeping in complete darkness interesting. I recall reading some info on the con of sleeping in a “cave like” room, even after the sun rises. Using black out curtains or blocking out streetlights to make your room pitch black can help you fall asleep and stay asleep BUT if daylight isn’t able to creep in by morning, your body’s natural circadian rhythm won’t know that it’s time to wake up. I’m wondering if this is why you said you don’t feel like a “morning person”..Lol Have you heard anything like this before or come across it in your research of complete darkness sleeping?

  20. Jennifer Avatar

    My son has autism and pure darkness causes him to have panic attacks, so no night light is NOT an option. He actually only sleeps through the night with his bedroom light on. We’ve tried turning it off constantly when he turns it on, but all that does is cause him to get up several times a night to turn it back on. We tried taking the bulb out of his bedroom light, but that only resulted in him opening his bedroom door & turning the hall light on to sleep on the hall floor. I’d rather he sleep through the night.

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