Nightlights are one of the best sleep interventions for children who fear the dark, but doesn’t having a light on actually prevent a child falling asleep? Artificial light, in particular, can delay melatonin production (which in turn delays sleep onset) so is a nightlight, a sleep ‘do’ or a sleep ‘don’t’? This blog hopes to shed some light on the matter.
1. Getting enough daylight means better sleep at night. Find time for your child to play outside during the day, open the curtains if they are playing inside and make sure they take their nap in a naturally-lit place to differentiate their day sleep and their night sleep. Their brain needs to know when it is day and when it is night.
2. Use a red nightlight. Scientists recommend using a light that is 25 watts and glows red. This is apparently less disruptive to melatonin production than bright white and blue light rays. Visit a lighting or hardware store to find one that works in your light fitting.
3. Avoid artificial light from other sources. It is recommended that children avoid screen time in the last four hours before their bedtime. This means you will need to get them off the couch and playing indoor games such as puzzles, drawing, crafting and card games. Turn all bright lights off in the 30 minutes leading up to bedtime and allow for 15 minutes in bed with the red nightlight on before your child is expected to fall asleep.
Alternately, empower your child with a handheld torch that they can sleep with and turn on whenever they feel afraid. This may mean less fear and greater chance of sleepiness – a combination that is good for all.
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