In movies, kids often fall asleep with a bedside lamp or night-light on. Due to the biology of sleep, though, I recommend that all babies and toddlers sleep in a pitch-black room. This encourages the production of melatonin – the hormone that makes us sleepy. However, many parents then worry about their children feeling afraid in the dark. Do toddlers need a night light?
Darkness and night fears
Biologically and developmentally, night fears usually only surface around 2 years of age, if at all. This is when children’s imaginations start to really take off, they become more independent, and also dream more. Around this age, take extra care to have a good calming sleep ritual before bedtime. Also, be careful what books you read and what you talk about just before your child falls asleep.
When to use a night-light?
If your child requests a night-light, be sure that it is one that shines with an amber/red light, rather than a white/blue light. White or blue light can inhibit the production of melatonin and disturb sleep. For this same reason, limit your child’s screen time in the late afternoon and evening, as it can have the same effect.
Take time with your child during the day (not just before bedtime!) to talk about what he has been dreaming, what’s on his mind, what is frustrating him, and what his fears are. Play fun games together in the dark to show him that darkness is safe.
If your child constantly comes into your bed, but you sleep worse because of this, consider putting a small mattress at the end of your bed that your child can go to by himself, without keeping you up the whole night with his kicking and squirming.
I hope you find these tips helpful. If your toddlers is waking frequently in the night, or too early in the morning, and fear isn’t the issue, hop on a FREE sleep consult with me to look at what could be causing your little one’s bad sleep.
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