Should I Use A Night Light?

This week’s TIP is thanks to Janelle Rhode, a wonderful Facebook Fan. Please feel to post your questions too they may also end up in lights on my blog!

Question:
Hello Pam! My question for you is what you think about a night-light in a toddler’s big boy room (and in a big bed). You say Dark Dark Dark, but my son wakes up crying in the morning too scared to get up in the pitch black (and can’t find the door usually). Is a night-light ok or does that defeat the purpose of the blackout blind?

Thanks!
Janelle Rhode

Answer:

You will want to use a very dim night-light for your newborn as you are getting up with them to feed. Once you are confident that your baby is sleeping through the night, a night-light is no longer necessary until somewhere between age 2 and age 4.

According to Christiane Northrup, MD, babies are born with only two fears. They are the fear of falling and the fear of loud noises. All other fears are learned. This includes the fear of the dark, which I suspect (from observing my own two test subjects) is from older siblings, cousins, books, television and movies.  Ideally, you want to wait until your child is old enough to verbally express that they are scared of the dark. This way, you can be a “super hero” and solve the problem instantly by purchasing a small night-light.  It is even more fun when you take them shopping to find one with you. If you have been using a night-light since birth, then your options in addressing your child’s fear are limited.

As per my previous blog tips, light has a tremendous impact on our sleep – babies and adults alike. Studies have shown that the tiny luminous rays from an alarm clock can trigger the pineal gland to release awake hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol. I argue that the same can happen with babies and children although I can’t find any research to support this theory yet.

In your specific example, yes, please go ahead and use a dim night-light for your sweet little boy so he can find the door to his bedroom.  By the way, I also recommend that the door stays ajar while children sleep as they usually find it more comforting to hear their parents. I know this is counter intuitive as most adults like complete silence when we sleep but when I work with my 99.9% clients, I encourage doors to be ajar and for them to be making noise while their children fall asleep at naptime and bedtime. This also helps, in my opinion, for children to learn to get into the deeper stages all on their own without need of white noise machines, fans and doors being closed.  There are the rare cases where I recommend that white noise machines be used.

And finally, take a moment and ask yourself if your toddler could need more sleep. When a child is well rested, 99.9% of the time, they wake up happy and not crying in the morning. Could this be the real issue? You would find out by putting him to bed thirty minutes earlier or so every night for at least a week to determine. If you are unhappy with this earlier bedtime, then once he is in a good groove (waking up consistently around the same time every morning happy for a good 2 to 3 weeks), then you can gradually move his bedtime later by 15 minutes every three days. It can take as long as 4 to 6weeks for a body to adjust when we make changes to its sleep.

Here’s to happy sleeping children!

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- Pam Nease
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