Sleep Training: Light On or Off? 5 Things to Know

Sometimes, it’s hard going into your baby’s room at night when you need to check their diaper. You need light to see their cute bum, but you might wonder whether to leave the light off or on in your child’s room?

Babies are sensitive to light, so they should sleep in as dark a room as possible. A newborn’s eyes are developing and adjusting to a world outside of the womb so too much light can impact their sleep. As a child gets older a nightlight can help promote a sound night’s sleep.

Using some form of light to navigate your baby’s room in the dark and to provide your child with comfort might seem like a no-brainer. It’s important to consider what effect this will have on their sleep cycle (you can read more about baby sleep cycles in my article here). But first, let’s get back to night lights.

An image of young mother puts the baby to rest.

5 Key Things to Know about Night Lights and Sleeping

  • Blue light is the most disruptive to sleep.
  • Babies learn to associate light with daytime and dark with night time.
  • Fear of the dark is a learned behavior.
  • Red lights or tones are the best for night lights.
  • Being able to recognise familiar surrounding can be comforting.

We can look deeper into the different circumstances when adding dim light will be beneficial for your child’s sleep and when darkness is the best choice.

Should Baby Sleep with Lights On or Off?

Babies should sleep with as little light as possible, as it can affect their sleep. Older babies may learn to fear the dark, so they may benefit from a night light until they can overcome that learned fear.

When considering whether a baby should sleep with the light on or off it’s worth considering their age.

Brand new babies have spent the past nine months tucked up in a womb in complete darkness. Sleeping in the dark can help recreate the same safe environment and calming ambiance so they can fall asleep.

Due to strong sensitivity, light can cause a disturbance to sleep for a baby. Aside from signaling it’s daytime, light is stimulating to a child’s brain. Being exposed to light when trying to get to sleep or sleeping can distract a baby from its slumber.

Of course, parents want to check on their children when sleeping. The baby might need to be changed or due to a feed. Since one of a parent’s superpowers isn’t night vision you do need some light to see the baby. In these times it’s important to use dim and non-intrusive lights.

As your baby grows and becomes more aware of its surroundings, they may find darkness unsettling. This is a great time to introduce a night light. Night lights are designed to be a dim source of light that can be kept on throughout the night without disrupting sleep.

Night lights can plug straight into the wall, operating from a low point to avoid directly reaching a child’s eye line. Those which can be placed higher up have their light diffused to provide a soft glow, perfect for creating comfortable sleep conditions.

An image of adorable baby with pacifier sleeping in blue bassinet with canopy at night.

Why Does My Baby Sleep Better With the Lights On?

As babies grow and become familiar with their surroundings a lack of light can become unsettling. If you are finding that your child is struggling to sleep in the dark it’s worth bringing some light to the situation.

Some babies sleep better with the lights on as it allows them to see their surroundings. They will spend time in the day becoming familiar with their home and recognize it as a safe space. Allow a dim light to keep their room illuminated as this can provide reassurance.

Having a night light creates a dim sleeping environment, it also helps you to see. This means you can avoid the use of torches or having periods of bright light. Sleeping in a constant low light may mean your baby finds nighttime feeding or changing less disruptive as they are used to these conditions.

What Is the Best Color of Light for a Baby’s Night Light?

The best color night light for a baby is amber or red. This is the least disruptive to sleep. It’s important that any nighttime lighting is dim so low wattage is a good choice.

Light in your baby’s bedroom should be diffused, many night lights have an opaque covering to create this effect. Alternatively, you can diffuse light by placing furniture in front of it to redirect the beam.

Avoid blue light. The production of melatonin is suppressed by blue light, this is the hormone that signals our brain to rest. Less melatonin results in our brains feeling alert when they should be sleepy. It can cause us to awaken during sleep and upset our body clock.

It’s recommended to not expose yourself, or your baby, to blue light within 2 hours before bed in order to promote a healthy night’s sleep. That means turning off the screens and using lamps and dimmer settings to create a low-light environment perfect for slumber.

An image of a baby sleep in a baby bed at night.

Best Products for Sleep Training with Night Lights

The market is full of options when it comes to night lights, it can be hard to know which is the best for you and your baby. It’s best to prioritize what meets you and your baby’s needs the most. We’ve provided a breakdown of some key features to consider.

Find a nightlight with perfect lighting

When purchasing your night light, the most important element on the checklist should be the light itself. As mentioned above you want a dim light, with low wattage (around 4-7 watts), and you what it to feature a red or amber tone glow as this is best for promoting sleep for your child.

That being said, let us show you some examples of good night light options, based on what we’ve seen, used, or been recommended by parents like you.

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MediAcouus Nightlight

The MediAcouus Nightlight night light (click here to see the best pricing on Amazon) offers a warm glow of 1.5 watts and has 7 interchangeable colors including a night mode. This creates an atmosphere that babies can sleep in but also allows you to navigate their room.

An added bonus is it’s powered by a rechargeable battery, meaning this night light can go where the baby goes. Whether you’re taking a vacation or visiting family. 

Parent Practical

Whilst quality sleep for your baby is the priority, you want to find a night light that’s practical for you as well. Embracing smart devices is a great way to provide a healthy sleep environment for your child. These devices can be adjusted to your child’s needs without you having to worry about disturbing them.

Hatch Baby Rest Sound Machine, Night Light

This is a well-reviewed and highly recommended smart night light. You can connect this night light to your phone and remotely control the settings depending on your baby. This includes adjustable lights, setting up a program to help create a sleep cycle, and taking advantage of soothing sounds to help your child drift off to sleep.

You can click here to shop the Hatch Baby Sound Machine and Night Light combo on Amazon.

Night lights with a cozy companion are fun

Night lights have also been incorporated into soft toys. This provides the additional comfort of a cuddly physical presence as well as a calming light. It’s important to remember that these night lights are only suitable for children aged 12 months and older. For smaller babies’ loose items in their cots can be hazardous.

Bubzi Co’s Baby Soother

This soft toy night lite was created by parents to soothe their babies when they cry. Featuring a soft light star display that can be projected onto walls or ceilings. This mesmerizes your baby to focus their energy back on sleep and can be a perfect solution for a baby who is fighting against rest.

These products are examples of the main types of nightlights available. Make sure to read reviews and check specifications to ensure the product meets your requirements.

Click here to go shop current best pricing on this Bubzi’s baby soother on Amazon.

Key Takeaways and Next Steps

Sleep training your baby is a lot of trial and error but there are some key rules you can follow to help the process along.

With a broad selection of night lights, it’s possible to start from a lower price range to see what works for your child. You can then progress on to a product with a higher cost point which meets all your needs.

It’s not always possible to control the conditions impacting your baby’s sleep, such as external noises, becoming unwell or sun light. You can use lighting to help create an ambient environment to help your child fall asleep quickly and soundly in spite of uncontrollable distractions.

With these tips in mind, you are now equipped to start incorporating soft light to help your journey in sleep training your baby.

Or, if you need more help, make sure you go read this article I wrote next: Does The Mattress Affect a Baby’s Sleep? The answers about how your mattress matters will surprise you!

Cite this article as: “Sleep Training: Light On or Off? 5 Things to Know.” Sleep Training Kids, 8 March 2022, sleeptrainingkids.com/sleep-training-light-on-or-off-5-things-to-know/.

By Kimberly C. Starr, RN BSN

I’m a ginger-haired nurse (RN, BSN) who loves getting enough sleep to be a functional parent to my four wonderful kids - who are even more wonderful when they’ve gotten enough sleep, too.