Should Babies Sleep In The Dark? (What You Really Need To Know)

“Should babies sleep in the dark?” is a common question among new and confused parents. I remember also asking a veteran mom friend about this.

I just had my newborn then and I wasn’t sure what room setup should I do for my little one – make my baby’s room pitch-dark or keep night light on?

My friend, who had 3 kids, laughed and said, all her babies slept with the lights on, and the radio on and it didn’t matter to them!

Apparently, for her, she didn’t want her kids to get used to sleeping in a completely dark and quiet room. She wanted them to get used to the light and noise so she doesn’t have to tiptoe around them, every time they were asleep.

Which kinda made sense. 

But then again, all babies are different. Mine seemed to sleep better in the dark. 

So I researched this and saw a couple of answers from various sleeping experts and even parents themselves. 

I also noted down some sleep-in-dark-room-related questions.

But first, let’s answer the question: why should babies sleep in the dark? 

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Why Should Babies Sleep In the Dark?

To Develop Their Circadian Rhythm

The circadian rhythm is our internal body clock that regulates our sleep-wake cycle.

If we’re exposed to the light during the daytime, that sends a signal to our circadian rhythm – our internal body clock – to stay awake.

When it’s dark, our circadian rhythm then triggers the production of melatonin – a hormone that promotes better sleep.

Newborns can’t regulate their circadian rhythm yet.

Well, they “technically” used to, when they were inside the womb. 

They used to depend on a mother’s internal cues about day and night. The mothers also pass their melatonin via the placenta, directing the fetus’ internal clock.

But obviously, that connection is broken after birth.

So to help babies regulate their circadian rhythm and promote the release of melatonin, we get them into a sleeping routine. Which can involve putting them in the best sleeping environment, where the room is dark as much as possible. 

To Create a Sleeping Routine

Keeping the room dark at night or during naptime, consistently, will eventually teach your baby about the difference between day and night.

It can help them associate the dark (and routine!) with bedtime, regulating their internal body clock, producing sleep hormones, and therefore making things easier for them to settle down to sleep.

Will My Baby Sleep Longer In a Dark Room at Night?

A baby can sleep longer in a dark room at night, provided that:

  • they’re not hungry
  • they don’t need a diaper change
  • they’re not hot nor cold
  • they’re not sick, gassy

or any other factors that might affect their sleep.

Is it Okay To Use a Night Light in My Baby’s Room?

Yes, it’s perfectly fine to use a night light, especially for night feedings and diaper changes.

But consider dimming it to the lowest level or only turning it on when necessary.

How Dark Does a Baby Room Need to Be?

Ideally, it has to be dark enough that you can’t see your hand in front of your face. That’s the ideal sleeping environment.

But of course, that can’t always be achieved.

Especially if you have a hard time getting the room to be totally dark. Eg., you live in a part of the world where the sun sets late or rarely sets, you live in the city where it’s much livelier at night, etc.

How To Block Out The Light In Baby’s Nursery Room?

  • Use blackout curtains

They can greatly help in keeping the room pitch dark. 

Check out some of the best blackout curtains here to help your baby sleep better.

  • Use temporary solutions

If you’re on vacation and you want a temporary way to make the room dark, you can use aluminum foil, garbage bags, or some blankets and put them up by the window.

It’s not pretty and it might take some effort putting it up, but at least you’ll be able to make the room dark enough for your baby.

  • Use another sleeping gear

If you can’t seem to make the room dark enough and no blackout curtains or alternatives are helping, maybe you can try the SlumberPod!

This is especially helpful if you’re on a trip and the napping conditions are too bright.

Should My Baby Also Nap in the Dark?

It’s better for them to sleep in the dark, for both nap times and bedtimes, as the dark promotes melatonin, a hormone that promotes sleep.

But you don’t need to obsess too much about making the room dark. 

Especially if it can’t be done easily or you’re out of the house. It’s not always convenient or easy to do so and that’s okay.

It’s just more of an ideal sleeping environment for a baby to sleep in a dark room.

But My Baby May Get Dependent on a Dark Room for Naps! 

You can add in night light in the baby’s room and set it in the dimmest setting. 

Hatch Rest Baby

Just so your baby can get used to sleeping with some light in the room.

If you’re going on a trip with your baby and you’re worried about their sleeping conditions, you can also get them used to room setup with some minimal lights.

Just remember though that bright lights can stimulate the brain so try to reduce it in your baby’s room.

Should Babies Sleep In the Dark: My Takeaway

I’m a big believer in making a baby sleep in a pitch-dark room.

But then again, all babies are different.

You can do everything by the book, and tick off all the list that you need to do for your baby to sleep longer. And still, some will have a hard time sleeping at night, in a bassinet, or anywhere at all!

Meanwhile, there are some babies out there who can sleep with all the lights on, while an ambulance, airplane, and a few dozen trumpeting elephants pass by.

Like my friend’s kids apparently. So it all depends on your baby.

If being in a pitch-dark room can help your baby sleep better, then by all means do it. 

Do what works best for your family.

If you like this guide, then make sure to check out How To Get A Newborn To Sleep In A Bassinet, How Long Can A Baby Sleep in a Bassinet, and Co-Sleeping With A Toddler.