Working as a Baby Sleep Consultant, I get asked many questions about setting a baby’s room up – There is an ever-evolving list of things to consider when setting up your baby’s bedroom, and at the top of it is — light (literally!). Making sure your baby’s room is dark enough, minimising light in the lead-up to bedtime, using the right lamps and nightlights — they are all things parents have to keep in mind to help their little one sleep well. One of the questions parents ask themselves when figuring this out is; which colour light is the best for sleep, blue or red? Today, I’ll be explaining the difference between them, and which is better for your baby’s sleep.
Is a Nursery Night Light Necessary?
To start with, I will get into why a nursery lamp or night light aids your little one’s sleep. Newborns need to be feed every few hours throughout the night during their first few weeks of life. Even after this period, some babies will need to be changed or comforted throughout the night. Every child is unique, and it is important to remember children can start being afraid of the dark as early as 18 months old. A way to reduce this fear is to add a nightlight into your child’s room, as this creates a calm and safe space for them to sleep through the night. If you are still giving your little one night feeds, keeping a nursery lamp on can help navigate your way around the room.
No matter what your situation is, if you want a nursery night light or lamp, it is important to choose one that does not disrupt night time sleeping. A disruptive light in the bedroom can be potentially harmful to the sleep health of your little one. As a result, careful attention must be paid to the brightness and the colour of the light.
How Light, Melatonin, and Sleep Interact.
Our bodies’ internal clock, also known as the sleep-wake cycle or circadian rhythm, exists from birth and tells us when it’s time to sleep. As it gets dark outside, our bodies begin to secrete melatonin, the sleep hormone. Light, and especially blue light, have the opposite effect; they signal the brain to secrete cortisol, also known as the awake hormone.
Blue room lighting at night blocks the production of melatonin in both adults and children. In The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, they outlined how light exposure suppresses nocturnal melatonin production. Since melatonin is responsible for helping us get to sleep, and stay asleep, both eliminating rogue lighting from outside, and if installing lights, using the right type of light is vital.
How Does Blue Light Disrupt Sleep?
Many nurseries and bedrooms have blue or purple lights installed, in the hopes they have calming effects. In reality, they are having quite the opposite effect. It has been found that red is the only colour that does not have a negative effect on the secretion of melatonin.
For the science behind it, we know that short wavelengths of light, which include blue, green and white, interact with the melanopsin receptors in our retinas. In simpler terms, our eyes pick up on blue light as a signal to reduce melatonin production. This is because our bodies see blue and white light as daylight. Any amount of exposure to bright lighting can cause an alerting effect that can last up to 90 minutes.
For this reason, paediatricians and paediatric associations recommend nursery night lights and lamps should be free from blue, green, and white wavelengths. While these colours might seem like calming, restful colours, they should be avoided as they negatively disrupt your little one’s sleep schedule.
Why is Red Light Better?
We know that colours, such as red and amber, that have long wavelengths, have no negative effects on sleep and melatonin production. This is because red and amber light does not interact with our melanopsin receptors. This means when we see red or amber light, our bodies perceive it as virtual darkness, and continue the natural production of the sleep hormone. We recommend the aroma-snooze-ultimate-sleep-kit from Snotty Noses.
Keeping a dim, warm light in your little one’s nursery or bedroom is the perfect way to introduce a light source without awakening or alerting your child during the night. It will make night time feeds and nappy changes a little easier, and help if your child has a fear of the dark by create a calming sleeping environment.
If you are having trouble with your little one having frequent night wakings or early risings, it might be a sign that the bedroom hasn’t been properly light proofed. If you are still having trouble with your baby’s sleep, it can be worthwhile contacting a Baby Sleep Consultant to find out how to lightproof your child’s sleep space correctly.