Any Light Before Bedtime May Disrupt a Preschooler's Sleep, Study Says

Kids and adults react differently to light exposure before bed. Here's the key to better sleep for your little one.


Photo by: Kelvin Murray

Kelvin Murray

By: Amanda Mushro

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When it’s time to say good night to your preschooler, there are a few things you can do to make sure they sleep tight all night long — read them their favorite book, let them relax in comfy pajamas, and make sure their room is dark. According to one study, keeping your child’s room very dark during naptime or bedtime could be the key to great sleep.

The study from the University of Colorado at Boulder found that when preschoolers are exposed to light (even very low intensity light) before bedtime, it can sharply reduce the sleep-promoting hormone, melatonin, and can affect their sleep. So, if there is any light coming into your child’s bedroom when they’re sleeping or falling asleep, it could be interrupting their slumber.

Light is the cue for our bodies to wake up. When light hits our retinas, it sends a signal to our brains that it’s time to stop making the melatonin and get ready to rise and shine.

Ready for the cutest thing you’ll read all day? According to the researchers, the reason that light before bed affects preschoolers more than adults is because of your preschooler’s big eyes. Since children's eyes have larger pupils, light streams into their eyes more freely.

For the study, researchers tracked the sleep habits of 36 preschoolers between the ages of 3 and 6. After a week of sleeping in their rooms normally, researchers transformed their bedrooms into "caves" by covering the windows and dimming the lights. What they found was the kids produced more melatonin when their rooms were darker. It’s interesting to note that the intensity of the light — from a phone or a bright overhead light — showed no difference in how the preschooler's body produced the melatonin. This means any type of light affects kids, which makes their experience different from that of adults.

So, what can parents do with this new information? First, put down the screens and start bedtime earlier so preschoolers have more time in a dark room to prepare for a deep slumber.

Second, recreate the "cave" in their bedroom with blackout and darkening curtains. These curtains can help keep your child’s room dark even when it’s bright outside. Check out our favorite blackout curtains that will look cute in their room and hopefully help them sleep better at night!


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