One simple way to improve your baby or child’s sleep today!

Did you know that millions of parents around the world are making one very simple, but huge, mistake that is potentially inhibiting their child’s sleep (no matter their age) and contributing to difficult bedtimes and frequent night waking.

This mistake is perpetuated by thousands of nursery product manufacturers around the world. In fact when you realise what it is you will be shocked at the products on sale that only add to, rather than aid, the problem.

baby toddler asleep with teddy bear

What is it?

THE WRONG LIGHTING.

Do you have a nightlight in your child’s room? Perhaps something in the shape of a cute animal, something that you plug in that emits a dim glow all night, or perhaps a glowing thermometer or light show. If you do then you most likely need to get rid of it.

Why? Because the wavelength of different colours of light can have a tremendous effect on your child’s sleep.

White and blue (or green) based lights  – however dim – will inhibit your child’s melatonin at night. This sleep hormone is released by the brain in response to light sensitivity in the eyes. In a world unpolluted by electric lights this would occur at dusk with research showing the peak rise in children at somewhere between 7:30 and 8pm. This hormone is necessary for your child to not only go to sleep initially, but stay asleep for longer overnight. I bet your current nursery nightlight is either blue, green, white, pink or purple in hue? These colours, particularly blue, are viewed as ‘calming’ which I suspect is why most manufacturers use them. They couldn’t be more wrong however.

White and blue based lights (including the light emitted from TVs, smart phones, laptops and almost all forms of lighting used in the home – that means no more CBeebies bedtime hour!) inhibit the body’s secretion of melatonin by tricking the brain into believing it is still daylight.

There is ONE type of light that doesn’t do this however. Red. Red based light has a much higher wavelength than white/blue/green light, which research shows (see links at end) does not inhibit melatonin. It doesn’t so much improve sleep, it just doesn’t interfere with the chemical building blocks of it. Of course the absolute best lighting to use in the nursery is nothing. Pitch black. This isn’t realistic however when it comes to night feeds or nappy changes. So red is by far the best second option. Don’t just focus on the nursery however, think about the light your child is exposed to before bed – like in the bathroom. Is your bathroom lit by regular white light? (even worse, are they energy saving lightbulbs – which emit much more blue light than old style incandescent bulbs) If so you might want to invest in some battery operated, more appropriate light. You can see the lights that I recommend HERE.

nightlight

Changing to red light is by no means a magic fix, there are many more elements to infant sleep which I cover in  The Gentle Sleep Book, but it’s a great, quick and simple start.

red

References:

1. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11763987

2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14962066

3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18838601

4. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12970330

5. http://informahealthcare.com/doi/abs/10.1081/CBI-100107515?journalCode=cbi

6. http://www.jneurosci.org/content/21/16/6405.full.pdf

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About SarahOckwell-Smith

Sarah Ockwell-Smith, Parenting author and mother to four.
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5 Responses to One simple way to improve your baby or child’s sleep today!

  1. kristie says:

    Just curious, what about yellow / orange light? My night light is a pale orange, i face it in the other direction, but i need to have it on as my child always gets out of bed, so no light would end in injuries. Could you put a red filter infront of a different light to make it work?
    Thanks.

  2. kate says:

    One of the most popular sleep aids is the clock that has stars on and turns yellow at “getting up” time. Trouble is all night the backlight on the clock is…..blue!! I wanted to get one and so I contacted the makers and told them about the research into light and melatonin etc but they said they’d had no problem or other feedback so wouldn’t be considering changing. Shame as I think they’d sell lots more!!

  3. Justine coates says:

    Hi Kristie, it is the actual light bulb that needs to be read. So a red filter/cover over a light won’t have the same affect. The levels of melatonin (sleep hormone) will still be reduced. There are suitable red, night lights that you can buy that Sarah has linked to in this article.

  4. Anna says:

    Justin’s that’s incorrect. What matters is what hits your eyes. A red filter would work but only if the bulb is emitting some red light, otherwise you would see nothing at all. Eg a normal white lightbulb gives out all colours of the spectrum to some extent. A red filter would block all but the red. Whereas a blue LED only emits blue light so a red filter in front would block out all light.

    • Rene says:

      Anna, Glad to see an engineer thinking. You are very correct. Now, there are Zwave and Zigbee bulbs (for people that has home automation) that can change output colors, these might help the baby and you when you wake up at night to feed.

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