Short on time? Then the key things to know are:
- At 2-4 months, your child’s circadian rhythm starts to develop, meaning their sleep is more affected by light and dark
- A dark sleep environment helps to increase the sleep hormone melatonin
- Blocking out light in your child's room can help to establish a sleep routine, settle them more quickly at night and prevent them from waking up early
- Even a small amount of light can impact a baby’s sleep cycle as they can find the light entertaining or it can cause them to focus on other objects in the room
- There is a range of solutions for blocking out light in a bedroom including blackout curtains, blinds, draught excluders, and removable window covers How light is your baby’s bedroom? If you’re struggling to get your child to settle down for a nap or their evening slumber, then a dark room may be the answer.
Between the ages of 2 and 4 months, your baby will start to develop their circadian rhythm. This is their body’s natural response to light and darkness, and is what helps to establish their sleep cycles.
It’s at this stage that the light in a room can impact their ability to fall and stay asleep. And one of the easiest ways to support your baby's sleep cycles is to create a sleeping environment that is dark and free from distractions.
Here we explain why a dark sleep environment is beneficial and share the best ways to make a room dark for a baby.
Do babies need to sleep in the dark?
A dark sleeping environment helps to increase the sleep hormone melatonin. Some babies and children are more light sensitive than others, but it's worth creating the optimal sleeping environment, especially if your child is having difficulty settling or connecting sleep cycles.
Darkness can also be calming for a baby. The lack of light can reduce distractions in the room, meaning it takes less time for them to drift off. Sometimes even the tiniest stream of light can be entertaining for a baby who isn’t yet in a consistent sleeping routine. They either focus on that bit of light or are entertained looking around their room. This makes it much harder for them to drop back off to sleep.
Also, blocking out natural external light can prevent early morning wakeups, especially in the summer months when the sun rises earlier.
How to make a room dark for a baby
- Switch off the main room light as well as any lamps.
- Remove sources of blue or white light such as computer monitors, televisions, mobile phones, and LED lights. Where it isn't feasible to remove them from the room, make sure they are turned off, or if small enough, cover the light source with black electrical tape.
- If the room has a nightlight, only use it for nappy changes or feeds. Also ensure the nightlight emits only red, orange, or yellow light. These colours of light are better at relaxing the eyes as compared to blue light which can make a baby more alert and suppress melatonin production.
- Black-out curtains with a thick lining will help block out light from the sun, moon, and even street lamps.
- Or consider using a velcro blind. Depending on the bedroom window size and shape, a velcro blind that fixes flush against the glass can be an effective way to block out all light. It’s also convenient to easily access the window when you want to open it.
- Reusable window film is another great option, especially if you are looking for a temporary solution or don’t want to make holes in the wall for permanent fixings.
- Thick roller shades can be easily pulled down for nap times and retracted when you want natural light in the room.
- Ensure the room isn’t too warm either. If the sun is shining on a window, not only can this fill the room with light, but it can also cause the bedroom to get too hot which can impact your baby's sleep. A black-out blind that has a reflective silver backing can reduce the room temperature by a few degrees, while also keeping the room dark.
- Use a draught excluder to block light from gaps in the doorframe. Sometimes light gets into the bedroom from underneath the door. A draught excluder or weathering strips can be an effective way to block this slither of light out.
- Consider layering at the windows if the room still isn't dark enough. A removable blind paired with thick curtains, for instance, may work well.
Remember that to some extent, every baby’s sleep cycle will be different. If you are struggling with daytime naps or night time sleep then you aren't alone. Creating a dark sleep environment free from stimuli is a great place to start but like most things, it is likely to be a period of change. It'll take time to find the solutions that work best for you and your baby.
Want to speak to someone about your child’s sleep environment or anything else to do with your baby’s snoozing? Book an online appointment with one of our sleep consultants at a time that suits you to get tailored advice and answers to any of your questions.
Claire, Sleep Consultant
Claire has over twenty five years' experience as a maternity nurse, nanny and certified infant sleep consultant. She supports families to develop tailored approaches for dealing with their sleep issues.