When it comes to putting your wee one down for the night, parents often ask themselves: Is a nightlight necessary? Depending on the age of your child, it may not be. However, for the very young (newborns, infants, and toddlers) nightlights may be a necessity.
We’ll provide tips to help you navigate the illuminating world of nightlights and look into how they can help children sleep better. Plus, we’ll explain how our smart companion for children, Snorble®, makes the perfect nightlight - when they’re not helping your kiddo with their social-emotional development, helping them set up healthy habits for life, and establishing a love of learning. Yup, Snorble does it all - more on that later. But first, let’s get into the circadian rhythm.
What is the circadian rhythm?
Everyone has a circadian rhythm - even those who can’t dance - dad joke alert! This is our internal 24-hour clock that keeps the body in line with our waking and sleeping schedules. Controlled by a small part of our brains (the circadian pacemaker), our rhythm can be highly influenced by light exposure.
When light enters our eyes, a group of cells on the retina sense it before it's interpreted by our brains to help determine what time of day it is. Then, the brain sends signals to the rest of the body to remind our organs that it’s either day or night. When we’re exposed to natural light, our circadian rhythm will mimic sunrise and sunset times leading us to stay awake during the day and sleep when it’s dark. However, our homes are powered by electricity creating unnatural light. That doesn’t mean our bodies are constantly confused as to what time it is when we have the lights on at 9 pm. It does mean that we should be mindful of how much unnatural light we take in before bed.
For instance, the timing of light exposure matters. When we flip open the bedroom curtains first thing in the morning our brains know it’s time to get up because of the sun. When we’re sitting in bed at night with the bedroom lights on, the TV blaring and our eyes glued to our phones, we’re inadvertently telling our brains to push our sleep cycle backward, keeping us up longer.
Now imagine your child going through the same thing except with their tiny baby eyes. You wouldn’t want them scrolling through their phones before bed - not that they have phones in infancy but you get the gist. You wouldn’t put your newborn down in a brightly lit room and hope for the best. They may fall asleep if they’re tired but good luck getting them to stay asleep.
Nightlights for children: newborns, infants, and toddlers
Newborns (ages 0-3 months) require 14-17 hours of sleep over a 24-hour period. Infants (ages 4-12 months) need 12-15 hours of sleep over 24 hours. Toddlers (ages 1-2 years) should get 11-14 hours of sleep throughout a 24-hour time period. This 24-hour timeframe from the time your kid is born until at least age three includes naps. We’ll touch on the 3+ set in a bit.
At this age, a bedroom nightlight isn’t for your child. It’s for you to enter and exit their sleep area without disturbing them by turning on the light every time you check on them. Because your kiddo is still developing their circadian rhythm and naps during the day, a nightlight won’t confuse their bodies. At this point in their lives, your child is learning the difference between day and night but won’t fully grasp which light is coming from the sun and what’s coming from a nightlight. What their bodies will fully get are the effects of blue light.
Don’t blue lights mess with melatonin production?
They sure do. Melatonin is the hormone produced by the body to indicate that it’s time to sleep. When we’re exposed to darkness, our bodies ramp up melatonin production, we get sleepy, and eventually punch our nightly ticket to dreamland. When we’re exposed to blue light - the artificial light used by our tablets, phones, computers, and pretty much every other gadget in our home - our bodies can get so confused that our circadian rhythm is completely thrown off.
But, there's hope: most nightlights emit little to no blue light because they’re designed to illuminate a portion of the room they’re in instead of bathing the area in swathes of unnatural light. The nightlight you’ll be placing in your kid’s room shouldn’t give off a lot blue light and even make them feel a little safer should they wake up in the middle of the night. Even babies need to recognize their surroundings at night and they can’t do that if their bedroom is shrouded in darkness. They may still wail at the top of their lungs for a feeding but they’re growing and need to eat.
Are nightlights bad for older children?
When your child graduates from toddlerhood to preschool age (3-5 years old) this is generally when children develop a fear of the dark. Not all kids think there’s a monster in their closet but nightmares tend to happen in the second half of the night during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. Having a nightlight can assuage your kiddo’s fears if they wake up in a cold sweat after a scary dream.
- Place the nightlight in the area of the room that needs to be lit up for you to see when you check up on your kiddo and not right in front of your child’s crib/bed. The room needs to be lightly lit, not your child.
- Don’t substitute a flashlight for a nightlight. When you check in on your youngster, shining a flashlight in their face to make sure they’re okay can wake them up. At least with a nightlight, the glow won’t be bright or right in their face allowing them to slumber peacefully.
- As your child gets older, ask them if they want to keep using their nightlight. Some children feel better when there’s a little bit of light when they drift off to sleep, while others are cool with sleeping in a pitch-dark room.
- Avoid nightlights that cast cool blue light. As aforementioned, blue light impedes melatonin production.
- Avoid nightlights that project shapes onto your child’s ceiling and walls. It may appear calming to look up and see a shower of stars as you drift off but nightlights like this don’t project shapes in one spot, they display them all over the room and could keep your kiddo up.
What’s the deal with Snorble’s nightlight?
So glad you asked! Snorble is a smart companion for children that provides day and night support for families. With that night support comes *drum roll please* a nightlight! We designed our smart companion with little to no blue light. This means you can rest assured that when your kiddo is in bed (or their crib depending on their age), melatonin production won’t be suppressed and they’ll get a good night’s sleep. Snorble also provides soundscapes and stories to help lull your child to sleep on the days that you just can’t sing another lullaby. You’re not Mariah Carey, you can’t be expected to perform every night.
Photo by cottonbro