Do Light Projectors Help Babies Sleep? Here is What Science says

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Getting babies to sleep is almost like rocket science, no one has an exact formula on how to get them to sleep. And if you are wondering do light projectors help babies sleep, we have an answer for you.

If you search for a night light projector or night light for babies on Amazon, you will get hundreds of options to choose from. All manufacturers are claiming it to be asleep soother for babies, but science proves them wrong.

New parents buy cute nightlight projectors with sounds and music in hope that they will help their baby slumber restfully, but it may actually be a reason for difficult bedtimes and their frequent night waking.

Do Light Projectors Help Babies Sleep- baby sleeping in crib with blue ight light projections

When I brought my newborn from the hospital, he wouldn’t go to sleep at night. it took all most three months to show day-night rhythms. Even after three months, he would frequently wake up at night. At that point, following the advice of a friend, I considered buying a nightlight projector with built-in white noise, music, and a starlight show.

But to my surprise, it did not work. After doing a little bit of research, I found that any kind of light – light show or dim night light, can have a tremendous effect on your baby’s sleep.

And if you are considering buying night light projectors to help your baby sleep, you need to read this article.

Table Of Contents

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Do Light Projectors help Babies Sleep?

There are many nightlight projectors available in the market in the form of cute characters, plush animals, or other forms to make your nursery look pretty. Also, they are loaded with so many features like in-built lullabies, music, white noise, and light projections in all the colors of the rainbow.

They are pretty attractive and advertised as sleep soother for babies, but in reality, it adds to the problem.

Bright light exposure at bedtime can have an adverse effect on a baby’s sleep, did you know that?

This is because the wavelength of different colors of lights can have an adverse effect on your child’s sleep biology. Light at night is a signal to the brain to delay the onset of sleepiness in babies.

Scientist has known for the longest time that white and blue (green) based lights exposure at bedtime, inhibit child’s melatonin at night. Melatonin is the sleep hormone released by the brain in response to light exposure at night. This hormone is not only necessary for your baby to go to sleep, but to stay asleep at night.

But when they are exposed to nursery light – white, blue, green, or purple, even when lit dim, can disrupt your baby’s sleep. The wavelength of lights in the range of 460-480, maybe good at re-setting the body’s internal clock to a later schedule.

Most nightlight projectors emit lights of shorter wavelength, which appears blue to our eyes. Studies have found that shorter wavelength light has a significantly larger effect on melatonin and circadian rhythm than light with a larger wavelength (1,2). And neurons in our retina respond maximally to blue light and gives a signal to the brain to stay alert, even when lit dim, by inhibiting the production of melatonin.

Even though the blue color is regarded as ‘calming’, it may not be as calming when it comes to night-time slumber.

Using nightlight projectors at bedtime is similar to exposing your kids to TVs, laptops, smartphones before bedtime. Blue light emitted from these devices can send a message to the brain to be alert even at nighttime (3).

So, sleep experts recommend turning electronic devices off one hour before a child’s bedtime to allow their body to start producing melatonin.

This explanation may clarify why light projectors do not help babies sleep.

But that leaves us with a question,

Should my baby room be Pitch Black?

Ideally, babies should sleep in the pitch black. Darkness allows the production of melatonin and provides distraction-free sleep for your baby. In fact, if you take your overtired or overstimulated baby in a dark room and try to soothe them, they are more likely to calm down.

Actually, babies do not need light and any kind of night light can be stimulating for them to fall asleep or staying asleep. Some babies are really distracted by night lights and have a hard time falling asleep. Specifically, night lights projectors that turn light on and off or changes colors of lights can be extra distracting for babies.

But if you need a light in your baby’s room for night feeds and diaper change, opt for a red night light. The red night light is not overstimulating for your baby. Some parents also keep the door of the baby’s nursery opens a bit to use the light from the hallway for night feed or diaper change.

How Dark Should my Baby’s Room be at Night?

Your baby’s room doesn’t have to be pitch dark if you don’t want it to be. You can use a red plug-in night light in your baby’s nursery. You can keep it on all night. If you find night light to be too bright, hide it behind the furniture to avoid your baby’s exposure to too much light.

What color of Night Light is best for Baby Sleep?

Virtually all artificial lights can affect your baby’s sleep but not all types of lights have the same impact. Red based light has a much higher wavelength than the other color light.

According to research studies, red light does not affect the internal clock of melatonin production (4). Although it does not improve your baby’s sleep, it does not inhibit melatonin production like blue light does. Red light is not too stimulating for your baby and allows enough visibility for night feeds and diaper change.

We have selected Top 5 Night lights making sure that it won’t affect your baby’s sleep.

5 Best Night Light Soother for Babies

While science says night light interferes with a baby’s sleep, some parents swear by some night light soothers available in the market that has helped soothe their babies to sleep at night. Cuteness and features that night light soother carries, sometimes make it irresistible to get one.

If your heart is set on getting a night light soother for your baby, then you should look for a light soother with the following features

  • Look for a night light that emits soft light
  • Light projectors with controllable white noise are a great choice
  • Choose one that has an option for color filter selection (select red filter only)
  • Select the night light soother that has a set timer to turn off light projection after 20-30 minutes without white noise cancellation.  
  • Choose the light projector with a still light show. A rotating light show may be too distracting for a baby.

1. Aromatherapy Diffuser/Red Night Light Combination

If you are looking for a night light soother without the light show, then this Aromatherapy diffuser with ONLY red night light setting is a great choice.

You can use it with relaxing child safe aromatherapy oil such as organic lavender oil to soothe your baby to sleep. This diffuser comes with many color lights to choose from but use red light for your baby, so it does not interfere with melatonin production.

If your goal is to soothe your baby to sleep at night and not the other fancy features that other product carries than this aromatherapy diffuser with the red light combination is the best choice.

2. Hatch Rest+ Baby Sound Machine, Night Light

This baby sound machine and nightlight combination work great to soothe your baby to sleep.

Hatch baby night light is great for those nighttime feeding as you can control the brightness of light from your phone. To use it as a night light, you have a rainbow of color to choose from. Red light ad a night light with white noise is the ultimate recipe to soothe your newborn to sleep at night.

You also have a choice of selecting snooze-inducing sounds, lullabies, and white noise from a library depending upon the age of your baby. This product also worked very well for parents during the 6-month transition from swaddling their baby to sleep sacks without any sleep-related problem with their babies.

This product grows with your baby. It has a two-way audio monitor so you can listen and talk to your child from another room through your phone, which can help your baby feel safe and secure when you are sleep training them. It also comes with a digital clock with the flexibility of adjusting the brightness or turned off completely depending on your need.

Overall, this product makes an excellent choice if you are looking into a night light soother rather than a light projector.

3. Buzzi Co Baby & Toddler White Noise Sound Machine

This product is the most versatile product with many features perfect to soothe your baby. This projector soother includes 10 different lullabies, natural bird sounds, heartbeat sounds, and projects dimly lit stars.   

This cute little plush toy is hand washable and can be used to keep babies and toddlers entertained. Another great feature of this projector is its auto shut-off options. The sounds automatically shuts-off after 30 minutes of use. However, the projection will have to be turned off manually to allow distraction-free to sleep at night.

4. Fisher-Price Soothe and Glow Seahorse

 Not a light projector, but your baby will absolutely love this adorable glowing seahorse. Fisher-price Seahorse plays 8 gentle lullabies, classical tunes, and ocean sound along with soft glow lights, to help your baby soothe to sleep.

This Seahorse is incredibly easy to use, in fact, babies can learn to operate easily early on. It turns music and light on with a gentle touch and turns off after a few minutes of play. This feature of this night light is great for your baby to avoid exposure to light for a long duration at night.

This product comes with a great review and parents love this product for its size and features. This product has worked for many parents to soothe their fussy, colicky baby at night. Also, it just the right size to take with you wherever you go with your baby.

5. Munchkin Light My Way Night Light

This little cure nightlight is great for babies and toddlers. It emits a soft warm glow and is not too bright to your baby’s eye. It is also small and portable, so you can carry it with you anywhere.

Another great feature of this light is that it automatically shuts off after 15 minutes of use. If your baby needs to use the light, then you have to press a button for another 15 minutes.

This is only a night light and does not have any other features like in-built music or white noise.

Do light shows help Babies Sleep?

As mentioned above any kind of light including light shows can affect your child’s sleep. Light show in particular where the light goes on and off or it changes color can be distracting for babies.

Tips to Reduce Blue Light before Bedtime and at Nighttime

Exposure to blue light can ruin your baby’s nighttime slumber. There are several things that you can do to minimize the exposure to blue light before and at nighttime. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.

  • Do not use night light projectors, instead use night lights that are red or orange. Red light is less stimulating for your baby and yet gives you enough visibility for midnight feeds and diaper changes
  • Do not use light at all in the nursery. Keep a nursery door crack open to get light from the hallway for feeds and diaper change
  • Avoid using energy-efficient (blue) bulbs even in the washroom.
  • Minimize your baby’s exposure to bright light before an hour before bedtime.
  • Use battery-operated candle lights in the washroom for baby bath time before bed and for other bedtime rituals like massage or feeding.

Can 1-year Old be Afraid of Dark?

If your 1-year old is upset at night, it is not because he is afraid of the dark. This is because they are not developmentally capable of being afraid of the dark. They have spent 10 months in darkness in the womb, so they are okay with the darkness.

Actually, darkness is soothing for them.

At the age of 1 year old, they are more aware of separation from you. So if they are fussing in their room, is most probably due to separation anxiety and because of the darkness.

At What age Babies start being afraid of the Dark?

As mentioned earlier babies are not afraid of dark almost until they are around 2 years of age. Fear of the dark usually appears when toddlers are 2 years old and lasts until their preschool years or even longer.

As your baby grows, you may need a night light in their room if they are afraid of the dark. Separation anxiety along with natural nighttime fear may make your child feel anxious at night.

A night light projector or a night light can be helpful in providing reassurance and comfort to your toddler in the middle of the night if they are afraid of the dark.

You can manage without a night light with the babies but if your 2-year old is suddenly afraid of the dark, do not hesitate to try one.

Do Light Projector Help Babies Sleep? – Conclusion

New parents can do anything to get their newborn to sleep and you are not alone if you are looking to try any gadgets that help their babies to sleep. Don’t be disappointed knowing that light projectors do not help baby sleep. There are other options like red night light with sound machine or aromatherapy/red night light combinations can actually work to soothe baby to sleep.

If you are struggling to get your baby to sleep at night, you may want to consider learning the fundamental of newborn sleep. It will help you set your expectation about newborn sleep and reduce the stress at night. I highly recommend talking this online newborn sleep course to learn basic of newborn sleep and tricks to soothe your baby to sleep and get them to sleep for longer stretches. This online course is very detailed, affordable and just take one hour to complete.

Check out the full review of of Baby, We are Home! Now Let’s Sleep here.

Let us know what you end up choosing to help your baby sleep and how did you like it? Leave your comment below.

References

  1. Lockley, S. W., Brainard, G. C., & Czeisler, C. A. (2003). High sensitivity of the human circadian melatonin rhythm to resetting by short wavelength light. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 88(9), 4502–4505.https://doi.org/10.1210/jc.2003-030570
  2. Brainard GC, Sliney D, Hanifin JP, Glickman G, Byrne B, Greeson JM, Jasser S, Gerner E, Rollag MD. Sensitivity of the human circadian system to short-wavelength (420-nm) light. J Biol Rhythms. 2008 Oct;23(5):379-86. doi: 10.1177/0748730408323089. PMID: 18838601.
  3. Carter, B., Rees, P., Hale, L., Bhattacharjee, D., & Paradkar, M. S. (2016). Association Between Portable Screen-Based Media Device Access or Use and Sleep Outcomes: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA pediatrics, 170(12), 1202–1208.https://doi.org/10.1001/jamapediatrics.2016.2341
  4. Wright HR, Lack LC, Kennaway DJ. Differential effects of light wavelength in phase advancing the melatonin rhythm. J Pineal Res. 2004 Mar;36(2):140-4. doi: 10.1046/j.1600-079x.2003.00108.x. PMID: 14962066.

Image of Newborn sleeping in the crib – Photo by Marie Despeyroux on Unsplash

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6 thoughts on “Do Light Projectors Help Babies Sleep? Here is What Science says”

  1. I didn’t know that the best option for our babies when it comes to sleeping time is a pitch dark room. Yeah, I get it, any light source can have the oposite effect from putting our baby to sleep. But in a grown-ups eyes, all these soft lights in aour newborns room look nice and give a sweet feel. How important is not to fall for this.

    1. Absolutely, we are always after making baby’s nursery pretty with this cute light projectors but actually they are the reason for babies frequently waking up at night. Thank you for the comment!

  2. Thank you for sharing such an interesting post on light projectors. New parents all go through this, it is so hard to get to the baby to fall asleep so we do everything in our power to get them to sleep. I would never thought of the night projectors but I remembered that in my family we used to use the lullaby with the music for my little sister. 

    I also think that the light from the projector would disrupt the baby’s sleep, even I wake up when there is a light. We all have this built in circadian rhythm. Interesting, i did not know that the red light is okay! Love learning new tips! I am going to check Hatch Rest+ Baby Sound Machine, Night Light out. 

    1. Red light is at much higher wave length than the blue and white light, which does not disturbs the circadian rhythm for babies. Hatch Rest+ sound machine with red light is a great choice. Thank you for the comment!

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