How dark is dark?

Darkness is one of the most common conversations I have with inquiring families and in my workshops.  

There are a lot of misconceptions around how dark it should to be for sleep.  It’s believed that some think too dark during the day will continue the day and night confusion, causing worse sleep.  I can reassure you, if your child is older than 6 weeks of age, this is no longer a concern.  When your child isn’t sleeping well during the day and/or night, it isn’t because it’s too dark – instead they likely their room is too light and possibly need help in other areas of their sleep.  

Why is darkness so important?  

It has everything to do with your circadian rhythms.  When working with families we talk extensively about circadian rhythms and how important they are in establishing easy, long and restorative sleep.  According to the National Institute of General Medicine Sciences (www.nigms.nih.gov), ” Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioral changes that follow a daily cycle. They respond primarily to light and darkness in an organism’s environment. Sleeping at night and being awake during the day is an example of a light-related circadian rhythm”  

 

What do circadian rhythms have to do with darkness?  

“Natural factors within the body produce circadian rhythms. However, signals from the environment also affect them. The main cue influencing circadian rhythms is daylight. Changing the light-dark cycles can speed up, slow down, or reset biological clocks as well as circadian rhythms.”   Circadian rhythms help determine our sleep patterns, so when we sleep in rooms that are too light, our body has a harder time actually sleeping and staying asleep.  It’s science!   

 

They say a picture is worth 1,000 words.  

Here I am going to show pictures of different levels of darkness for children’s room and sleep – what I recommend and others I don’t.

My son’s room with just black out curtains. Not dark enough.

 

Again, too light. Black out curtains are not enough. I always say, have at least two layers. *You’ll also note the crib backwards…that is for my crib crawler. 🙂

 

Two layers on the windows: black out curtains + blinds. Getting better!

 

The best yet! – and still room for improvement. There are two layers on the windows: black out curtains and pull down curtains ALONG with a towel at the top to block out the extra light. You could go one step further in tape down the edges of light you see here. If not, this darkness level is appropriate.

 

Success! This darkness level should be what you aim for during naps and bedtime.

 

Yes, this is a picture of a bedroom! Kelsey’s nearly 4 year old son’s room is pitch black for sleep. You can never be too dark!

 

Sleep begets sleep, and when we sleep in darker room = better sleep = your overall sleep improves!  As you’ve heard me discuss when working with you, or in my previous blogs or on Facebook – a main contributing factor to better sleep is DARKNESS!  

 

Citations:

National Institute of General Medical Sciences, Nov 9, 2017., https://www.nigms.nih.gov/education/pages/Factsheet_CircadianRhythms.aspx

Valerie Birch

Certified Infant & Child Sleep Consultant at Amazing Little Sleeper
Valerie Birch is a Pediatric Sleep Expert for exhausted families who have tried evvvvverything to get their child to sleep.

Through her informative and supportive blog posts and one-on-one help, she’s here to guide your child into restorative naps and peaceful nights - while making you wonder why you didn’t contact her sooner.

When she’s not consulting?You’ll find her hanging with her 2 children, getting her sweat on at the gym or baking and indulging in warm ooey-googey chocolate-chip cookies….hobbies that balance each other out!

Meet Valerie + prepare yourself for Amazing Sleep ahead…amazinglittlesleeper.com

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