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Do Light Projectors Help Babies Sleep Better? Science Thinks So

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Getting your baby to sleep through the night is no easy task. New parents often try everything to get a little more sleep at night: white noise, lullabies, rocking cribs, or co-sleeping – sleep-deprived parents will try anything. 

So, what about a light projector? Do light projectors help babies sleep better? Some parents swear by their baby’s light projector and others are left despairing when the so-called miracle device ends up making their baby’s sleep even worse. 

What does science say? Should all parents-to-be have a baby light projector on their shopping list or not? Read on to find out. 

Do Babies Sleep Better In A Bright Or Dark Room?

You may often feel like your baby doesn’t know the difference between night and day and this is often actually true!

Newborn babies are not born with a circadian rhythm.

The circadian rhythm is the internal process that regulates the sleep/wake cycle. Babies younger than 2 months have not developed their circadian rhythm. Therefore, they do not need to be in a dark room to fall asleep (we all know tiny babies will fall asleep anywhere).

However, it is a good idea to get your baby into the habit of sleeping in a darkened room during the night as this will help them learn the difference between night and day when their circadian rhythm starts to develop (usually between two and four months of age). 

Babies will sleep better in a darker room because darkness supports the sleep hormone, melatonin. Darkness signals to your body to begin releasing melatonin which acts on receptors in your body to encourage sleep.

Light can stop the brain from releasing melatonin as effectively, making it harder for sleep to occur. 

Should Babies Sleep With A Night Light?

Putting your baby to sleep in a bright room may be tricky. The lack of darkness will mean their brain isn’t triggered to release melatonin. However, you may be worried about your baby sleeping in a pitch-black room too. 

Young babies can happily sleep in total darkness. It is not until they become a bit older that they may develop a fear of the dark or suffer from separation anxiety.

Despite the fact babies can sleep soundly in pitch black, many parents still decide to use a night light or baby light projector. 

In the early days, the use of a night light is of greater benefit to parents than it is to their baby’s sleep. A night light can make middle-of-the-night diaper changes easier and may help moms to stay awake during the many night feeds.

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However, science has found that some night lights and light projectors can actually interfere with the baby’s sleep and keep them awake for longer. 

There is no right or wrong answer, you can use a night light or you can put your baby to bed in a pitch-black room. Now, let’s delve into the scientific evidence about baby light projectors – do they really work? 

Do Projectors Help Baby Sleep?

There are hundreds of night light projectors for babies available on the market today, all claiming to work miracles and help your baby sleep peacefully all night long.

Unfortunately, many of these baby light shows and night light projectors do the opposite of what they are promising. 

Scientific research has found that many baby light projectors will negatively impact your baby’s sleep. Many colors of light are actually really damaging to a baby’s natural sleep cycle.

We all know looking at our phones before bed can make it difficult for us to fall asleep, the same can be said for baby light projectors. 

Devices that project light shows onto the ceiling can be extremely distracting for your baby and keep them awake for longer.

The moving lights can encourage your baby to stay awake and although blue may seem like a calming color when it comes to helping babies to sleep it is not calming at all. 

The wavelength of different colors can adversely influence your baby’s sleep biology. White and blue lights have been scientifically proven to inhibit the production of melatonin in babies at nighttime.

Just when your baby should be starting to release melatonin in readiness to get sleepy for the night, blue and white light can interfere with this process. 

The fact that blue light can make falling asleep more difficult is why sleep experts recommend all adults and children switch screens off at least one hour before they go to sleep. 

The production of melatonin is essential for your baby to fall asleep at night and develop a proper circadian rhythm.

baby asleep

However, as blue light can delay this natural process, certain night lights and baby light show projectors will not help you and your baby to get a peaceful night of sleep.

Melatonin is not only responsible for helping babies to fall asleep but also for helping them to sleep more soundly and for longer. 

Best Color Night Light For A Newborn?

Most baby night lights and light show projectors may not be able to make all your dreams of a full night’s sleep come true, but there are some that can help.

We have established that blue and white light at night time is not a good idea, even purple and green tones can interrupt your baby’s melatonin production. However, do not despair, there are night lights that use colors that will not disrupt your baby’s sleep.

Scientific research into melatonin production has found that red light is much less disruptive than other colors. Unlike blue light, red light does not interfere with your baby’s internal clock of melatonin production.

The red light will not necessarily help your baby to go to sleep but it will not disrupt their circadian rhythm and melatonin production. 

Lights with a shorter wavelength can appear blue or white to the human eye, meaning they have the potential to negatively impact sleep. Red lights often have a much higher wavelength, this means they are less likely to disrupt your baby’s sleep.

If you want to use a night light in your baby’s nursery then opt for a red light rather than a light show projector that makes lights of all different colors dance and flash around the room. 

Baby Night Light Buying Guide

With scientific evidence proving moving lights, white and blue lights can interrupt melatonin production and make it difficult for your baby to fall asleep, you have to wonder if buying a night light projector really is a good idea.

The good news is that there are several baby night lights that use red or dim lights, which science has found to be less likely to disrupt and distract your baby as they wind down for the night. 

Before we give you our baby night light recommendations, here is a list of features to look out for in a bedtime soothing device for your baby: 

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Red light

You want to choose a night light that emits red light or only uses a dim light. Some projectors will have settings that use different colors, as long as there is the option for red light only then the device will be more beneficial than one that just uses red light during a light show with other colors. 

Light can be turned off with white noise left on

No one is disputing the magical power of white noise when it comes to sleep. However, you need to find a device that either plays white noise with just a red light on or one where the light show can be turned off and the white noise left on. 

A Still light show

Light shows are fun for your baby to watch and may even keep them quiet. However, watching lights flash and move across their ceiling can be extremely stimulating for babies, making them more alert and less sleepy than before.

If you want to use a light projector, it is best to buy one with a still ‘show’ that rotates slowly. The different colors do not move and flash, the image just gently rotates while the lights remain motionless. 

4 Best Baby Night Light Projectors 

 

1. Hatch Rest+ Baby Sound Machine, Night Light 

The Hatch Rest+ is a fantastic all-rounder when it comes to soothing your baby. The device includes a night light, clock, and sound machine. It also works as a two-way audio monitor. 

This is not a light show projector, but it is a very useful night light that will not harm your baby’s melatonin production. The Hatch Rest+ gives you the option of a rainbow of different colors for the light – including red.

When set to the red light, you know your Hatch Rest+ is not going to negatively influence the quality of your baby’s sleep. 

You can also use this night light as a baby monitor. You connect the Hatch Rest+ to your WiFi and operate it using your smartphone. Parents are able to hear their babies and talk back to them using their phones.

This night light also has a digital clock, this is a LED light but you can control the brightness or switch it off completely. 

The Hatch Rest+ also includes a library of sleep-inducing sounds and white noise, when combined with the red light this can help soothe your baby to sleep. This baby night light is also Alexa enabled making it really easy to control, whether you have your phone on you or not. 

It is not an all singing and all dancing light projector, but the Hatch Rest+ ticks all the boxes for a night light that will help your baby to sleep better. 

2. LumiPet Kids Night Light

The LumiPet Night Light is a really cute night light that is great for babies but also for older children too.

The LumiPet comes in the form of various different cuddly animals including a bear, a hippo, a unicorn, and a puppy. This is a good choice of night light for a baby’s room as you have the option to set it to red light. 

The light in LumiPet can be changed, with 9 different colors to choose from. You will want to stay away from most of the colors but there is the choice of a red light which we know won’t negatively impact your baby’s sleep. 

The LumiPet is made from soft silicone and will make a lovely bedtime companion for your child as they grow.

Whilst it is best to not use this option when trying to get your baby to sleep, you can set the LumiPet to cycle through the 9 different colored lights, making it a fun light show for your little one to watch (just not straight before bed).  

The battery life of the LumiPet is approximately 12 hours and the device can easily be charged using a USB charging cable. There is a timer feature on the LumiPet that will turn the light off after a set amount of time – 15, 30, or 60 minutes.

The night light is lightweight and small making it a good option if you travel often and want to take a night light with you, the fact the LumiPet is battery powered also makes it portable and easy to use anywhere. 

This night light does not play sound or music but if you are just looking for a night light for your baby’s nursery, the LumiPet is a great option. You can adjust the brightness and choose the color light, completely customizing it to your baby’s preference. 

3. Jack & Rose White Noise Machine With Night Light 

The Jack & Rose White Noise Machine has several functions that make it the perfect choice of night light for your baby’s nursery. This device has 7 different color light settings as well as a breathing light.

You can set the Jack & Rose light to red to help your baby have a better night’s sleep and the pulsating breathing light is claimed to encourage more relaxed and calm sleep-inducing breathing. 

As well as using it as a night light, the Jack & Rose can also be used as a white noise machine. This night light includes 16 high-fidelity soothing sounds that can help your baby drift off to sleep.

Sounds include lullabies, ocean waves, white noise, bird songs, and fetal heartbeat. Using white noise can help your baby to feel safe and secure as the sounds mimic those they heard when inside the womb.

Along with the dim red light, the white noise settings on the Jack & Rose could help your baby sleep more soundly for longer. 

The Jack & Rose White Noise Machine With Night Light has an auto-off timer feature. You can set the timer to continuous so the white noise plays all night, or you can adjust the timer so the sounds stop after 15, 30, 60, 90, or 120 minutes. 

4. Fisher-Price Settle & Sleep Projection Soother 

As we mentioned previously, light show projectors are not the best for helping your baby get to sleep. However, sometimes a light show can help to calm your baby down and can indicate to them that bedtime is near.

The Fisher-Price Settle & Sleep Projection Soother has lots of settings that make it a good choice of the light projector, if you do decide you really want one for your baby’s nursery. 

The Fisher-Price Settle & Sleep fits the side of your baby’s crib and projects a gently moving moon and starts lights show onto the ceiling. It is important to mention that the light projected is white and the animal scene on the face of the projector includes various bright colors.

However, the Settle & Sleep has been sleep-expert-approved and has built-in sound and light playlists that encourage your baby to calm down and start feeling ready for bed.

There is a specially designed, 30-minute sequence of soothing sounds and lights programmed into the Settle & Sleep that gradually grows softer before transitioning to white noise.

This sequence will let your child watch the light show but also gently encourage them to go to sleep by gradually dimming the lights and playing only white noise. 

As your baby grows the Settle & Sleep can be used as a fun interactive toy during playtime as well as a soother at night. The animal scene on the face of the projector is fun and engaging for little ones and there is a big button older babies can press to turn the lights on themselves. 

Although scientific research suggests light projectors can negatively impact a baby’s sleep, many parents use them and with the specially designed 30-minute sleep sequence the Fisher-Price Settle & Sleep may help your baby to drift off to sleep more peacefully. 

FAQs

Are projector lights safe for babies?

It is not recommended that you keep a light projector show on all night as this can affect your baby’s ability to fall asleep. But they can be used as a tool in your bedtime routine to soothe and calm your little one before bed.

How can I improve my baby’s sleep efficiency?

A consistent routine is a good way to help improve your baby’s sleep pattern and the length of time that they sleep. Your routine may start off with a bath, then a cuddle, bottle, story, and bed. The routine you decide on is one that is best for you and your baby.

The Final Thought 

Getting your baby to sleep is never easy. What works for one baby will not always work for another. Baby light projectors work miracles for some parents, their babies watch the light show and are easily lulled to sleep.

However, science has proven certain colors of light and moving and flashing lights can disrupt a baby’s melatonin production and make it harder for them to drift off, not easier. 

If you don’t want your baby to sleep in pitch black, you can either leave the nursery door open to allow light in from the hallway or use a softly lit red night light.

Science has found that red light can encourage natural melatonin production and will not interfere with your baby’s natural circadian rhythm.

We have recommended four-night lights in this article that include features that encourage baby’s to sleep better – we hope they work for and you and your baby get a good night of sleep soon. 

If you still have questions about your baby’s sleep then why not check out our Hoe to get your baby to sleep guide here.

Hi, I'm Emma and I'm a mother to 5 beautiful children aged from 1 to 21 years old- life is hectic! I have learned so much along the way, not only from my own children but also through my professional life. In my positions as a Childminder and Teaching Assistant, I have studied Child Development and The Early Years Developing Practice. I wish to share all of this knowledge and help you with your own parenting journey!