One question a sleep consultant is frequently asked is whether babies should sleep in a dark room, or not. Some parents suggest that a nursery should be light during the day time, during naps for example, and dark at night so as to avoid confusion. The short answer is yes, babies should sleep in a dark room, for all sleeps.
Let’s take a look at the detail and how we’ve come to this conclusion.
Q: Is It Bad To Sleep In A Dark Room?
Younger babies are less impacted by a light or dark room as babies aren’t born with a circadian rhythm which is the internal process that regulates the sleep-wake cycle and helps control your daily schedule for sleep and wakefulness.
Between the ages of 2 and 4 months, you baby will start to develop their circadian rhythm and it’s at this stage they will be impacted differently depending on whether they are in a dark or light room.
As your baby grows, however, they will sleep for longer in a dark room, as darkness supports melatonin the sleep hormone. Therefore, it’s recommended that you get them used to sleeping in a dark environment as early as possible.
Q: Should My Baby Nap In A Dark Room?
Melatonin is the sleep hormone that helps the body control sleep cycles. Light breaks down melatonin, and consequently, babies will produce lower levels during the day when rooms tend to be brighter. Therefore, napping in a dark room will support this hormone, which in turn helps them fall and stay asleep.
Q: How Dark Should My Baby’s Room Be At Night?
A: Babies tend to find ways to entertain themselves, which means parents need to make sure their sleep environment is dark with no distractions that may impact them falling asleep. The older your little one gets, the more sociable and curious they become. With this in mind, it’s recommended to keep the room dark to help your baby to fall asleep without the distraction of toys, for example, in their sleep environment and also support Melatonin, the sleepy hormone, to do its work.
Blackout curtains or blinds will help block out any light sources
Q: How Do I Ensure The Room Is Dark Enough?
A: There are several steps you can take to ensure your baby’s room is dark enough to support their sleep cycle and line them up for a good night sleep. Start by entering the room at night to identify what the potential light sources are. Of course, there will be the main light and/or lamps that can easily be switched off, but if there any light coming through the windows or under the door perhaps?
Blackout curtains or blinds will help block out any light sources out of your control, such as sunlight/moonlight or street lamps. Heavily lined curtains will help keep the warmth in the room too, so it’s a win-win.
I do not recommend the use of nightlights for younger babies however if you do need to be in their room at night use a nightlight to help you keep an eye on your little one and when it comes to nappy changes. Ensure this light is red, orange or yellow as these shades a less likely to impact melatonin production, unlike blue & white light sources.
Q: What Age Should Your Baby Sleep In Their Own Room?
A: The American Academy of Paediatrics (AAP) recommend newborn babies sleep in the same room as their parents until at least 6 months old and up to the first year if possible. There is strong evidence to suggest that room-sharing decreases the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) by up to 50%. SIDS is the unexplained death of a baby younger than one year.
With this in mind, by one years old, parents will likely be looking to transfer their little one into their own sleeping environment. The trick is to do this early enough to avoid sleep separation anxiety but past the risk of SIDS.
Remember, every baby’s sleep cycle will be different to some extent, so it’s best not to worry too much or compare to others experiences. However, if you’re struggling to get your little one to go to sleep, consider reaching out to a sleep consultant for assistance, not only with your child’s sleep but to help the whole family sleep better.
Have you more sleep questions you would like answered?
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