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Do Babies Sleep Better In The Dark?

should the nursery be dark for sleep
Christine Brown

Christine Brown

“Do babies sleep better in the dark?”

“But I thought I wanted to have a bright bedroom so that my little one can figure out days and nights?”

“My first child can sleep anytime, anywhere so I have no idea what to do to help her little brother.”

As a child sleep consultant, I hear these questions almost daily from exhausted and exasperated Moms during a sleep consultation.  They are struggling day and night to get their babies to snooze.  

Some Moms are blessed with unicorn babies who are super flexible.  It’s like they come out of the womb with this sleep stuff figured out.  The rest of us are racking our brains, scrolling mommy groups, Googling and reading blog posts…sound familiar? 

One of the first things I assess when working with a family is their sleep environment and my #1 question is:  

“How dark is your child’s bedroom on a scale of 1 to 10?”

Sometimes even making small tweaks to the light in your baby’s room can make a world of difference! Let’s explore why and then I’ll share some tips on darkening up your little one’s sleep space.

Sleep Science

Babies are not born with a developed circadian rhythm. Circadian rhythm is a fancy way of saying sleep-wake cycles for the purposes of this post, but the circadian rhythm plays into a lot of different body processes.

Around 2 months of age, your newborn’s circadian rhythm is beginning to develop and they mature enough to learn their days from their nights.  Babies begin being able to sleep a 4-6 hour stretch at the beginning of the night. Before this, your newborn may appear to be a rock star. Cue the song “Up all night, sleep all day!”

On top of that, it takes babies somewhere in between 9-12 weeks to begin fully producing the sleepy hormone, melatonin.  Around this time is when the pineal gland matures and melatonin production increases under the right circumstances. 

Melatonin helps the body control the sleep/wake cycles and is determined by how much light enters the eye.  Light suppresses melatonin production.  Therefore babies and toddlers produce lower levels during the day and in brighter environments.

Potential Sleep Challenges From Sleeping In A Bright Room

Some babies can sleep in a bright room, but many children experience the following side effects if the baby’s room is brighter:

  • Naps: your baby/toddler may snooze beautifully at night (or not!), but have difficulty napping. If your child’s room is bright it can be difficult for your baby to fall and stay asleep during the day
  • Bedtime & Overnight: if your child’s room has sunlight, white, blue, purple, pink or white light, it may affect your child’s ability to fall and stay asleep, day or night
  • Morning: if it is bright, many children wake up with the sun. The sun says “good morning sleepy head – time to start the day” even if it is 5:30 am! I remember not being able to resettle when I was little once I woke up for this very reason! My poor parents.
  • Summer: with the sun staying up longer, many children have a difficult time settling to sleep until way past their bedtime if their room is light during the summer months
  • Daylight Savings Time: your child may have a harder time settling to sleep or waking up early when we change the clocks in the spring and fall.

Is My Baby’s Room Dark Enough

With my sleep consulting clients, I recommend darkening their child’s bedroom to a 9 or 10 out of 10.  That means that you can’t see your hand in front of your face dark!

If you are like “how do I figure that all out?”

>>Download Our Darkness Test How To<<<

Our Favorite Blackout Solutions

There are solutions that work amazingly for any budget! Here are some of our favorites:

Investment: $$$

Sleepout Curtains

Blackout-EZ

Investment: $$

Blackout blinds and blackout curtains with wraparound rods – my cost-effective favorites can be found here.

Investment: $

Black Hefty Trask Bags & Blue Painter’s Tape – if you just need to get it done quickly or aesthetics aren’t all that important, this is an awesome solution. Cover the window totally with the trash bags. This is an amazing travel solution that I always have in my suitcase when traveling with my little guys! Here’s a quick video tutorial.

To view all of our favorite products, visit our Amazon Shop page.

If you need more than just a tweak to help your little one sleep better, reach out today for a discovery chat where we can talk about how we can help your family to get the rest you need.

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