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Are nightlights bad for children?

From fear of the dark or for comfort, kids sometimes need a light at night.

boy scared in the dark

Image: via Shutterstock

There are many reasons parents may need to keep a light on at night: If coping with a small baby (or a messy toddler or pre-schooler), keeping a light on helps to avoid standing on painful nappy pins or Lego blocks. When a child is older and getting used to sleeping on his own, he may still be getting up in the night to go to mom and dad, or to find his way to the loo. Sometimes, though kids will just be too scared to sleep in the dark. Are there any health risks for kids who need a night light?

It takes time to wean a light-dependent child off that secure glow; even some adults still prefer to sleep with a light on somewhere in the house. If you have staircases (which should, ideally, have protective gates at the top or bottom), a light in the passage will help to prevent accidents.

Can your child sleep without a night light?

When asked this question, our friends over at Facebook responded in various ways- suggesting that the need for light varies from child to child, and that parents shouldn’t fret about it unless the child or family is not getting enough sleep:

  • “Mine can't sleep with a peep of light from a few months old.” Amina
  • “Actually, no. Any advice?” Carmen
  • “Six year old still falls asleep with lite on, have tried everything, have given up trying to get him to fall asleep without it, so now I just switch it off when I go to bed.” Robyn
  • “Yes. If any lights are on she is restless.” Robyn M.
  • “Leave the passage lights on and leave her door open so she will be able to go to bathroom at night. She's 3 and will do anything you tell her it's what grownups do... So she's used to sleeping without light on now.” Rofhiwa
  • “Now i have to wait for my daughter to sleep first before I switch off the lights..” Gadifele
  • “No lights. All lights go out at bedtime only some light from street lamps come in and that's enough for my lb to go to the bathroom with by himself.” Samantha
Says the BabyCenter:

“... different research teams have found no relationship between night-lights and near-sightedness. So there's no need to worry about the effect on your child's eyesight.
“Children don't experience night-time anxiety until they are two or three years old, when their cognitive development enables them to understand the concept of fear and they're capable of imagining scary things lurking in the dark. In the meantime, your toddler will sleep better in a dark room.

They go on to recommend a dim light, if necessary.

On the other hand, The Primal Parent suggests that artificial light could impair the immune system, have an impact on hormone production and other detrimental effects, and they recommend total darkness.

It looks like the light in the passage is a rite of passage for many of us, so unless you feel that it is becoming a problem, or your child has recurring nightmares without a light, it may just be one of those wait-and-see parenting experiences, and you have the freedom to choose which style suits you.

**If you do choose a nightlight, choose one which is dim, child-friendly, not vulnerable to being knocked over, and one which is safe and non-flammable.

Does your child need a light at night?

By: Scott Dunlop

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