Night lights have so many different uses! You can use them to fall asleep better. They can light up dangerous stairways or your bathroom in the dark. Or they can help children who are afraid of the dark. There are so many different variations of nightlights with different colors and brightnesses. But how bright should your night light be? After you’ve read this guide you will know exactly how bright your nightlight needs to be for your purposes.
The brightness of your nightlight should fit the situation you use it in. For sleep, a dimmed, yellow light (similar to candlelight) is best. For illuminating a room at night you need a bright, whiter light (comparable to a small flashlight). If you are not sure where you want to use your nightlight, you can even get a dimmable light with different color settings.
These are the topics we are going to cover:
- Why is night light brightness important?
- Where to use night lights?
- How bright should a night light be?
- How to pick the right night light color?
- Which night light is best for sleeping?
Why is night light brightness important for you?
Are you able to fall asleep when someone shines a bright white flashlight directly in your eyes? I’m sure you can’t (but please don’t try it). There’s a connection between light and sleep. So, why can’t you sleep when you are exposed to bright light?
Every night you become tired and fall asleep. Sometimes you even become tired before you are going to bed. What makes you tired is actually your own brain. It commands the pineal gland, which is inside your brain, to produce melatonin. Melatonin is the hormone that makes you tired and fall asleep and it is responsible for regulating your sleep rhythm.
I don’t want to bore you with hormones and biology, but there is just one more simple thing you need to understand:
Light blocks your melatonin production
Being exposed to too much light at night (oh what a rhyme) gets you in big trouble. Because you lack natural melatonin, your sleep quality decreases. Researchers found out that your sleep is a lot worse when you are in a lit up room than when you are in a dimmed light environment or in the dark (this study).
That’s why choosing the right night light is important for you. You want the benefits of the light at night (for walking around in the dark without crashing down one of your 10,000$ vases), but still, you also don’t want to influence your sleep in a negative way. There’s an optimum point somewhere in between, which we are going to find out.
Where to use night lights?
The brightness you want to choose also depends on where you are going to use it. There are different possibilities for usage. Here are some of them:
- You can use a night light in your bedroom to help you fall asleep and be more comfortable. Usually, you plug it in the wall where it is able to softly light up the whole room. With softly I mean you don’t want too many bright spots or shadows. It should be even distribution. Think of it as a gently covering your room with light.
- In your children’s room. The same rules as in your bedroom also apply in your children’s room.
- Use a night light in a hallway to light up the path for night trips to the bathroom. Because it is not located inside your bedroom, the brightness doesn’t matter that much. Short exposure to light doesn’t really harm your melatonin levels. Just make sure you aren’t blinded by it.
- In your garden. You can also use a night light outside of your house. For example, if you want to attract insects to a specific place so they stay away from your open bedroom window or if you want to light up something. Maybe you have a safety cam outside which needs some light. By just getting creative you can easily see that there are a lot of usages for night lights.
How bright should a night light be?
As you just found out, the brightness of light does affect your sleep. So it’s important to know about where exactly you want to use your night light. In case it’s outside of your bedroom: don’t worry about it being too bright. If it’s outside the bedroom a bright nightlight can only harm you if you wake up at night, go to the bathroom and on the way there you get blinded by the night light. That’s not really what you are aiming for. So a decent brightness light would be best for outside the bedroom.
Inside your bedroom, a really dim night light is best. You want to avoid the negative impacts of light on your sleep. As a rule of thumb you can say that if you close your eyes, you should see nothing but black. Here’s a good way to test if your night light has a good brightness:
Is your night light too bright?
- Turn off all lights in your room except for your night light. Make sure it’s completely dark.
- Hold your flat hand up.
- Close your eyes. Remember what you see. Is it dark red? Or just black?
- Place your hand over your eyes.
- Did the color change? Now you should notice the difference between what you saw before and after you cover your eyes.
If your night light is too bright, you will see that the color changes after you place your hands on your eyes. Make sure that it’s actually dimmed just enough that placing your hand on your closed eyes makes no difference. If you close your eyes you should see just black, whether your hands are covering your eyes or not.
Why is this test important?
You now probably think that this test makes no sense and is useless. But I actually came up with it based on the scientific study from above. You sleep with your eyes closed. Therefore melatonin only gets blocked if the light goes through your eyelids. By doing the night light test from above, you can easily check if the night light is too bright. In just 3-5 seconds you can improve your sleep quality. Imagine, you don’t do the brightness test and you use a wrong light… I’ve read about a study that shows that too bright light at night decreases your sleep quality and therefore makes you sleep more than one hour longer (here).
In case you are not an owner of a night light right now and you can’t do the test, don’t worry. Later on, I’ll link you a night light you can get, that is perfectly suitable for sleep and passes the test.
How to pick the right night light color?
Your sleep quality does not only depend on the brightness of your night light, but also on the color. White light consists of several colors that go from red to blue. If you mix all the colors together, you get white light. Scientists found out that the blue part of light has a big impact on your life.
At daytime, blue light makes you feel refreshed, energized and healthy. But if you are exposed to blue light at night, it harms your sleep schedule and makes it a lot harder for you to fall asleep. That’s why you should also not only avoid blue night lights for sleep but also you should try to avoid blue light exposure before bedtime. Blue light is the reason you don’t get tired when you are at your smartphone. Honestly, if I wanted, I could spend all night on my phone or PC and not get tired. You probably know what I mean. Blue light tells your brain that you are looking at the bright blue sky and you have to stay awake.
Never pick a blue night light
Your sleep and health will thank you if you avoid blue light exposure at night. Therefore, there’s just one simple rule to follow when picking the right nightlight color: Never pick blue.
Believe me, it’s true. When I was a small kid sleeping at my grandparent’s house they always had a blue night light because they thought it might help me fall asleep. Not surprisingly, I could not fall asleep at all. I woke up tired every time I slept there and back then I promised myself I will avoid blue night lights for the rest of my life. And you should too.
Candlelight colored night lights will help your sleep
A dim candlelight colored night light does two things for you. The first one is that it does not block melatonin production. Melatonin is responsible for telling your organs and actually your whole body which time it is. Without melatonin, your body would think it’s daytime and keep you awake. Luckily, candlelight colored night lights help your sleep by not having an impact on your melatonin levels.
The second thing is that candlelight colors just look way more comfortable than blue light. Blue makes you feel cold (and prevents your sleep at the same time) while candlelight colors like yellow and orange make you feel comfortable. You feel like you are in Alaska, in a small wooden house. An open fire makes a cozy atmosphere and warms you while you slowly fall asleep. That’s the simple reason why candlelight colored lights are much better than blue lights.
Which night light is best for sleeping?
For picking a nightlight, you want it to fulfill two conditions: The first one being that it passes our brightness test. Remember: You should notice no difference between what you see with closed eyes and what you see with closed eyes covered with your hands. If a nightlight passes this brightness test, everything is fine.
The second condition is that a nightlight can’t be blue. It has to be a warm, comfortable color, something you feel good with. Anything is okay, as long as it’s not melatonin-blocking blue.
If both conditions are fulfilled, you can’t do anything wrong: The nightlight has perfect brightness and color.
One nightlight that exactly matches the conditions (and even surpasses them) is this 5 stars rated dimmable night light on amazon (take a look at the ratings: “One of the best purchases I’ve ever made!”). I’d choose this nightlight one over any other because you can set the brightness just as you like because it’s dimmable.
Which night light is best for your hallway or bathroom?
In case you want to use your night light outside of your bedroom, a brighter night light would be more suitable. This dimmable night light with over 1,000 customer reviews will do the best job for your hallway. However, remember: This is only suited for hallways and bathrooms, not your bedroom. The color of the light is just too white. The seller describes it as “warm white”. But as you know now, white light contains a big portion of blue light and should, therefore, be avoided in your bedroom.
The Outline – How bright should a night light be?
Picking the right night light can be such a hassle. And on top of that, picking the wrong night light will harm your sleep. You want to get a night light that is just right in color and brightness. The perfect night light (as the ones suggested) is dimmable and color adjustable so you can fit it exactly your needs. Also, you learned about a quick method (that just takes a few seconds) to be able to set your night light color and brightness just the right way that is best for you.
What do you do now?
Now is time, to set up your night light future and improve your sleep using night lights. But not only night lights are great for improved sleep. There are also some other things that will change your sleep quality instantly and make you feel refreshed every morning. If you want to learn even more about sleep and how you can improve it, check out my other posts!
One thing I really recommend to take a look at is the guides section. It is full of useful sleep improvement tips and strategies!
Sleep is non-negotiable. So care about it and make sure your sleep is as effective as possible!