You follow the same bedtime routine every night. After a bath, your child cozy’s up onto the couch with you for 10 minutes of TV while they sip on a milky drink. You head to the bathroom together and squeeze fresh, minty toothpaste onto your child’s toothbrush as she uses the toilet. Hands washed and teeth brushed you make your way into the bedroom where your child climbs into bed and you enjoy a quick story. You share kisses and cuddles, and tuck your child into bed. Then switch on your child’s night light and head to the door where you flick the light switch off, pausing as you hope tonight your little munchkin will settle quickly. An hour later your child is still awake. What could have gone wrong?
The answer may lie in your child’s ability to produce melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone responsible for sleep and it is produced in response to the amount and kind of light your eye is exposed to. Modern lighting can interfere with this process and inhibit the production of melatonin. However there are some options and lifestyle choices you can implement to counter this.
- Keep bedrooms Dark: The best sleep environment is a completely dark one but this isn’t always practical with children. They may be afraid of the dark or need to get up for the toilet. In younger children there may be nappy changes or night feeds. Use the next two tips to help…
- Reduce Blue Light Sources: Research has shown that blue light sources and led lights reduce melatonin production significantly, and yet a simple search of kids’ night lights on the internet shows that the majority of night lights emit blue wavelengths. Many use led light bulbs. Look to eliminate blue light sources in the bedroom and bathroom which is likely to be the last place you go before bed. Use lamps in your living room and definitely switch all electronic devices off at least an hour before bedtime. Make television a treat as you prepare dinner. Perhaps even dim the lights at the table and light a candle for a bit of sleep inducing fun.
- Replace Your Kids Night Light: Amber and Red wavelength lights have no affect on melatonin production and circadian rhythm so it makes sense to ensure that any bedroom lights, kids alarm clocks and sleep monitors use these wavelengths. A night light like Tick Tock Turtle is a good choice.
- Replace Television with an extra book: Head to bed ten minutes earlier and read an extra book (or two). But remember to keep the lights dim. Reading to your children is such an important part of their growth throughout their childhood. It also can create some of the most special memories with your child that you will never forget as they grow older so quickly.
- Limit Fluids later in the evening: Keep your child well hydrated during the day or check as you arrive home if they are thirsty to minimize night time bathroom trips and exposure to bright lights.
- Use block out curtains or blinds: This will help you to control light sources from outside your home. This could be a problem if you live in a country with long daylight hours or if your home is surrounded by lots of artificial light. Block out curtains also have the added benefit of saving energy and reducing noise.
- Morning light: Expose your child to natural light soon after waking. Open curtains or try to eat breakfast in a sunny or bright area. This stops the production of melatonin and helps reset your child’s sleep cycle.
So remember while complete darkness is best for encouraging sleep, red and amber light sources will not interfere with melatonin. Avoid other light sources as much as possible. Don’t let night lights turn into bright lights…