“Should my baby’s nursery be dark for sleep?” “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. 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. Is the the baby or toddlers nursery dark enough for sleep? Sometimes even making small tweaks in this area can make a world of difference.
Lights Out – Making your baby’s nursery dark for sleep
is another popular question from Moms.
Sleep Coaching Science
Babies are not born with fully developed circadian rhythms (a fancy way of saying sleep cycles). Somewhere in between 2-4 months, babies mature enough to learn their days from their nights. This is why 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 breaks down melatonin. Therefore babies and toddlers produce lower levels during the day and in brighter environments.
This may be one reason why your baby/toddler may snooze beautifully at night (or not!), but has difficulty napping. With the decrease in melatonin, it can be difficult for your baby to fall and stay asleep during the day. During daylight savings time, you may find it harder for your child to settle at bedtime or wakes up super early for this reason.
What can you do to make sure your child’s room is dark enough for sleep?
With my sleep consulting clients, I recommend darkening their child’s bedroom to a 9 or 10 out of 10. This helps with melatonin production which aids in sleep. A dark, cave like sleep environment can help to solve common challenges, including difficulty napping, falling asleep at bedtime and early bird wake ups.
- Inspect the room at night and during the day to determine light sources and then cover them
- Invest in room darkening shades and blackout curtains or a full blackout solution
- Cover all blue or white light sources with black electrical tape
- If you are going to use a nightlight, only turn it on for diaper changes/night time feedings. Ensure the nightlight is a red, orange or yellow.
- Same goes for toddlers that are afraid of the dark. When introducing a nightlight, ensure you aren’t utilizing a blue or white nightlight. These can be stimulating and offset melatonin production
- As part of your bedtime routine, lower the lights in the whole house 30-60 minutes before the bedtime routine. Also turn off the TV/tablets. Blue light emitted from electronics can be stimulating.
Try out these recommendations in your child’s sleep environment and let me know if you see any change.
Follow Bella Luna Sleep Consulting on Facebook to be notified of Part #2 where I’ll share how to ensure the right temperature for your child’s bedroom to promote sweet slumber.