Natural light underpins the health and wellness of infants and their caregivers.  As any new parent knows, babies are born without a well-developed sense of night and day, and their internal body-clocks need external cues to help establish their sleep wake/cycle.  Infants depend upon exposure to the daily cycles of natural light to define their sense of day and night.  With thin eye-lids and ultra-clear corneas (lenses), infants eyes are even more sensitive to light than adults.  Studies show that exposure to bright light during the day, and the darkness at night is critical for healthy sleep and development of infants.

Caregivers of infants are all to familiar with sleep disruption.  Less well known is the role that light plays in disturbing our sleep.  Exposure to light at night sends an alerting signal to our bodies, and disrupts the hormone and recovery cycles which underpin our sleep.  Caregivers need to be especially careful not to expose themselves to bright or blue light at night – even a quick a quick glance at a screen can disturb you sleep!   Unfortunately most artificial light sources, including many popular ‘night light’ products, emit blue light which interferes with caregiver and sleep.

The ideal nursery light changes intensity and color with time of day, to match light from a window during the day, and the light from a candle at night.   The bright light of day helps an infant consolidate their sleep cycle, and regulate their circadian rhythms.  Light can be used safely at night (for night-time feedings, diaper changes etc.) if it does NOT contain the blue light which alerts the infant and caregiver.   Like candle light, light at night should be soft, and rich in red and yellow.  Parents and their babies are now benefiting from a new class of ‘human centric lighting’ products which mimic the cycles of natural light.  To put it simply, caregivers and infants sleep and feel their best with natural light!

TIP:  practice good lighting habits with your little one, exposure to natural light during the day and darkness at night will help the whole family sleep and feel better!

additional resources/reading:
developing circadian rhythms and sleeping habits
the development of circadian rhythms in infants
HuffPost article = not all night lights are created equal
article on the need to improve lighting in the NICU