Some say your baby’s nursery should be light during the day to avoid day / night confusion while others say a darkened room will help your baby nap better. Who’s right? This article will discuss whether your baby’s room should be light or dark at nap time and why.
It is true that your baby can get confused as to whether it is daytime or nighttime, if they are in a dark place too long and for too much of the day. This is because light or sunlight stimulating our eyes is what “sets” our internal clocks to know whether we should be awake or asleep. This is also the way adults who work the graveyard shift can learn to stay awake all night and sleep all day. The fact your eyes are closed and it’s dark in your room, even when it’s 11 a.m. and the fact you might be in a lightened place or staring at a computer screen at 3 a.m. can “trick” your body into knowing to sleep during the day and not at night. Obviously, this does not happen overnight and can be more or less difficult, depending on the person. My mom was a nurse for many years who worked nights and, even though she is retired, she still has trouble sleeping all night and not during the day.
But, how much is this a concern for your baby’s naps?
It is very important to clearly establish day and night with your newborn. When they were in your womb, they were lulled to sleep by your movement during the day and woke up at night (I’m sure you remember). And, if you don’t establish to their internal clock that it’s actually the reverse, you run the risk of being up at all hours in the middle of the night with a very awake baby, even if they are short periods of alertness. You will be even more exhausted than those of us who get up every two to three hours for night feedings.
But, once your baby has had day and night sleep clearly separated and your baby is no longer a newborn, a darkened nursery can do wonders for your baby’s napping!
For the same reason that the light establishes your baby should be awake, it can be difficult for your baby to sleep in a light room, once she becomes more social (which begins around 6 weeks old when she may smile at you!). There are so many interesting things to look at, especially if you are like most parents who want the nursery to be an inviting and comfortable place for your baby and decorate it as such. Sleeping in a light room can be especially difficult for perceptive children who will find the smallest thing to entertain themselves. In fact, my eldest son couldn’t even have a nightlight until he was a toddler! He was too young to be scared of the dark and was used to the darkness in my womb, so removing his nightlight improved his night sleep and room-darkening blinds (or you may prefer curtains) helped his naps and him from waking too early in the morning.
But, what if your baby naps too much?
Most people who frequent this site do not necessarily have this problem (babies and toddlers need up to three hours of daytime sleep for a looong time!), but there are no rules to say you can’t open the blinds or curtains and simulate the sunrise during her nap. After your baby has napped at least one hour, you might let some light in for her to naturally awaken during her next sleep cycle. There is such a thing as “napping too much” in that it can “rob” night sleep, but generally, this is not a problem for most people. Most people want to know how to lengthen naps in the first place!
If you’re looking for ways to get your baby or toddler into a healthy sleeping routine during the day, I encourage you to download our FREE guide, 7 Common Napping Mistakes, or explore Mastering Naps and Schedules, a comprehensive guide to napping routines, nap transitions, and all the other important “how-tos” of good baby sleep. With over 40 sample sleep schedules and planning worksheets, Mastering Naps and Schedules is a hands-on tool ideal for any parenting style. For those persistent nighttime struggles, check out The 3-Step System to Help Your Baby Sleep. Using the same unique approach and practical tools for success, this e-book helps you and your baby sleep through the night. For those looking for a more customized solution for your unique situation with support along the way, please consider one-on-one baby and toddler sleep consultations, where you will receive a personalized sleep plan you can feel good about!