As a new parent, you want your child to be healthy and develop appropriately. One of the best ways to ensure proper growth and development is to improve your baby’s sleep state.
Your baby benefits from sleep in many ways. Proper sleep is essential to growth and development. Brain development significantly depends on proper sleep patterns. As we sleep, our brains make the new connections more permanent. Lack of sleep weakens cognitive function. Additionally, muscles, bones, and organs depend on sleep to repair and strengthen.
So, if you are planning your baby’s nursery, consider the following helpful tips for setting the right lighting for your little one’s sleep.
1. Lights Out
Our bodies work on circadian rhythms that are affected by light. When people cannot see, they often have trouble with night/ day rotations. Likewise, if someone works the night shift, they sometimes have trouble sleeping in the mornings. The key to getting your baby to sleep is minimizing the light. Most studies indicate that children do not become afraid of the dark until eighteen-months-old or older. Well-rested baby reminds readers, “If your child is under 2 years old, any upset overnight is not due to the darkness in their room. Developmentally, they are not yet capable of being afraid of the dark.”
Consider dim lights for late feedings as well. While you may need a little light to see for moving around the room, you do not want harsh lights at three in the morning—neither do babies. A dimmer switch or easily accessible soft lights would be best. Many of the new smart bulbs can be dimmed. “Alexa, set lights to 20 percent,” might be easiest at three a.m.
Room darkening curtains may also be a fantastic choice. Even with the lights out, two in the afternoon is not dim. Curtains that can block the light or thick blinds may make the room darker when there is an abundance of light outside. You do not want to place blankets or coverings over the crib or bassinet unless they are designed especially for your brand or style. Babies can suffocate from coverings that fall inside. It is best just to avoid them.
2. Use Nightlights Sparingly
As mentioned above, babies are not generally afraid of the dark, and light can disturb their sleep patterns. If your baby has a large room and you are concerned that you may need to use parts of the room late at night, such as for feedings or diapering, consider putting the nightlight away from your baby’s crib. You want as little light as possible near the sleeping space. Blue tones are more activating. Red tones are less exhilarating and have less potential to disturb sleep. If you must use a nightlight, you should consider using a soft, red-toned light away from the bed.
Dimmer switches can help minimize the lighting that comes into the room, but you will want to place the crib or bassinet away from the light. Even dim overhead lights can disturb sleep patterns and bother one’s eyes. Dimmer switches are much better than overhead lights or nightlights. The dimmer can be used only when needed and doesn’t provide constant light.
Lamps can be fitted with smart lightbulbs as well. Using them reduces the need for a nightlight. You can turn only that lamp on, and as we stated before, you can limit how much light is emitted. A lamp with a Phillips Hue bulb may be turned on at 25 or 40 percent through Google, Alexa, Siri, or an app.
Additionally, some of these bulbs can be purchased with warm red lights rather than harsher blue lights. Consider these bulbs when designing room lights. Though they may be more expensive, they are also often an incredible value when considering these tips.
3. Use Lamps for Layers
Skip the overhead lights altogether. Use lamps around the room to create light. You can also utilize windows for natural light during the day. Closing the curtains at night or in the evening will also become a signal to your little one that it is time to sleep. A few lamps in the room can brighten things up if it isn’t quite time for bed. The Spruce recommends three points of light to create adequate layers.
You can also place the lamps in non-sleeping areas if you want. Lamps near the changing table, play areas, and entrance can help you in the later hours without creating disturbances around sleep areas. Keep the play light off at bedtime and only use the others as needed.
Lamps can also have several settings that allow you to use only the amount of light you need. Some lamps light the base with a dim light and add the upper bulb for brighter light. They can be chosen according to your nursery design as well. The choices you make for bulbs can follow the suggestions from above. As your little one grows and does start to fear the dark, lamps like these can provide just enough light to see if they are scared.
4. Maximize Natural Light During Waking Hours
Children and adults need natural lighting. The sunlight has been shown to help bodies activate vitamin D. Natural light is also great for those circadian rhythms mentioned earlier. During waking hours, use windows and doors to create beautiful bright lighting around your home. Of course, safety is a priority, so make sure screen and storm doors are locked and secured. At night, however, you want to minimize these effects. Place cribs away from windows if possible, and close curtains, blinds, and doors to minimize outside light. The darker the room is, the more likely your baby is to sleep.
If your child naps during the day, closing windows and doors should minimize outside lighting as well. This will make it easier to sleep during daytime hours. This is also helpful in prime summer months when it’s still light at nine p.m. in many locations. Be sure that the temperature of the room is also kept warm enough that sleep isn’t difficult but cool enough that your baby doesn’t spend all night sweating. No one wants to wake up in a pool of sweat. Many babies sweat while they sleep, naturally, so a cooler room is better than a warmer one in many ways.
Speaking of heat, make sure that natural light, and even artificial lighting, does not affect the room temperature too much. Children are naturally curious and will touch hot bulbs, so keep lamps out of their reach.
5. Skip the Musical Lights
Some lamps and nightlights provide music for babies to sleep. However, this is not beneficial to babies. While research indicates that music helps cognitive development, this is untrue for sleeping times. Music during the sleeping hours can be distracting to the brain. Playing soft music during your child’s playtime is fantastic for development but avoid noisy nightlights or lamps at night. These can be distracting for your child’s brain and prevent deeper sleep.
Bulbs for these lights should be warm yellows or red lights for sleep as well. Shapes and projections can be distracting for smaller children as well. Babies, particularly infants, are easily distracted by lights. Some of this subsides as they get older, but children should have as little light as possible in their rooms, as infants. Music and light together can make sleeping incredibly challenging for babies. Minimizing these distractions will make for a happier baby.
Bonus: Other Room and Sleep Tips
Besides lighting, you want to make sure that sleeping spaces are conducive to sleeping for your baby. Toys, blankets, and pillows are generally discouraged for baby sleep spaces. Some toys are marketed as sleep aids for babies and contain soft lights, sounds, or cushions. However, these gadgets are unnecessary and often detrimental to sleep. Your baby did listen to your heartbeat throughout your pregnancy, but the heartbeat bears are unnecessary and can even be distracting. Your baby goes all day without hearing that sound, now, so the added sound at night isn’t as soothing as it may appear.
As a safety measure, blankets shouldn’t be used in cribs or beds for quite some time. As children get older, blankets may be utilized, but small children should not have anything with them. Not only can they get too hot to sleep comfortably, but they can also become tangled in the blankets and suffer injuries. Likewise, it may be tempting to place a blanket or sheet over a bassinet or crib to minimize light during daytime naps. However, doing this can be dangerous as well. Blankets may fall and suffocate your child without warning.
Floor lamps and lamps placed on the edge of tables can be dangerous for children as well. Children tug and pull on things from the moment they arrive. As children become mobile, they may pull lamp cords or stands. This curiosity can cause lamps to topple, injuring your baby. Even if the lamp misses the baby, the bulb may break, leaving shards of glass. Secure the lamps with cords that are pulled to the back of furniture and avoid tall floor lamps. If possible, secure the cords to the table or other piece of furniture to keep babies from being able to maneuver the lamp off the side.
Routines are also invaluable ways to ensure a great night’s sleep. Bath time, closing curtains, baby massage, and quiet voices can cue sleep for babies. The more they learn the patterns of your movements, the more likely they will be to fall asleep quickly. Whether you choose to sleep-train or rock your baby to sleep every night is a choice you will have to make, but whatever you choose should consist of a routine.
There are many ways to create the perfect lighting for your baby’s room. Consider bright lights for waking hours. Naps and bedtimes should have a minimal amount of light. If you must use a nightlight, consider dimmable or red-toned lights to minimize disruptions to sleep. The less light you have near the crib or bed, the more likely your baby will take no notice. Skip the fancy nightlights with music and shapes and opt instead for basic lights. Try to position them away from sleeping areas as much as possible. Many tips such as these make baby sleeping spaces more optimal for brain development. While we will likely never have the absolute perfect nursery with all of the best cognitive development designs, you can maximize the use of light in your little one’s room.