Why Sleep Consultants Love a Dark Room
As a sleep consultant, I can tell you that one of the first things we ask is, "how dark is the baby's room?" When we give advice or start working with a family, we will ALWAYS tell them to ensure the room is dark. AND WE MEAN DARK! No light is coming in whatsoever.
But why do we love a pitch-black room? It's pretty interesting, actually.
But First, Some Facts ...
Babies don't start to produce melatonin (the hormone needed for sleep) until about three months of age. They go off mom's melatonin production the entire time they are in the womb. I love that fact because it shows how amazing our bodies are!
Melatonin responds to darkness, and as the day goes by, those levels start to decrease during the day and increase during the evening (which is one of the reasons napping can be so tough for babies). However, newborns don't know the difference between day and night because their circadian rhythm (body clock) hasn't yet been able to set.
That's where a dark room comes in!
In order for your baby to be able to sleep, they need to produce melatonin. A dark room is proven to help in the production of the sleepy hormone we love so much. Since the drive to sleep decreases during the day, darkness sends the message to the brain, and the production of melatonin can begin, thus leading to better naps and better nighttime sleep.
Think about it this way … when they're in the womb, all they see is darkness. When you go outside on a bright day, you might feel your baby kick and go a little crazy because that light is distracting.
A dark room can also begin to set their internal body clock, which then leads to you being able to work on a daily schedule that works for your baby.
As your newborn becomes an infant and then a toddler, light from inside the house, their nightlight, or lights from outside, can become distracting and lead to an interruption of melatonin production, and many times you may find that they are waking up. If you think about it, even we adults can be distracted by the light from the TV or our phones! Babies and toddlers work the same way.
Your baby can also associate a dark room with bedtime. Everything you make a part of your bedtime routine (and nap) sends signals to your child's brain, letting them know it's time to sleep. You can start a routine the day you bring them home to help set them up for success as they get older.
"My child is afraid of the dark!"
I hear this often, and we know that fear is very real! To help keep their room dark enough for restorative sleep, I always urge parents to opt for a red bulb instead of the traditional nightlight. Why? Because red helps keep melatonin production higher than the traditional nightlight or blue light from a device that can interrupt that production.
Ways To Keep The Room Dark
I love speaking with parents and giving them ideas for a dark room. There are a few options, whether moving, traveling, or just waiting for your blackout curtains to arrive.
- If you're traveling and blackout curtains aren't an option, you can use aluminum foil for the time being.
- Another option that works just as well is black trash bags. It's a great option should you be in a bind.
- Blackout shades are also great, and if you're like me, you use shades AND curtains (that's how much I love a dark room for my kids).
- AND OF COURSE….THE SLUMBERPOD. SlumberPod is a great option, whether you're moving, sharing a room with your kids, if they're sharing together during travel, whatever reason, to be honest.
"How Dark Do We Really Need It To Be?"
The answer is completely and totally dark! Can't see your hand in front of your face dark. If your toddler is afraid of the dark, there are a lot of red nightlights that offer a darker tone rather than a brighter tone.
If you have a newborn, you can also use a red bulb and keep it at a safe level of darkness.
Darkness is our friend and theirs. I hope you try these tips and that I've been able to give you some insight as to why we love a dark room.
Jamie Ortiz is the owner of Little Ones Sleep Society, a military spouse, mother of two, and a Florida native. Her favorite part of sleep consulting is being there to support her parents through a stressful time, offering different ways of making them comfortable and celebrating them reaching their goals while being able to achieve them by making the parents comfortable and also knowing what their baby needs. Fluent in Spanish, she’s been able to work with families in both communities, resulting in an amazing experience she can offer to the families she will work with in the future.