Should Newborn Daytime Naps Be In The Dark?
Getting adequate sleep is essential for newborns. New parents often wonder if their baby should nap in a dark or light room during the day. There are pros and cons to both that parents should consider when deciding what works best for their little one.
How Much Sleep Do Newborns Need?
Newborns need a lot of sleep. On average, they sleep around 16 hours per day. However, this sleep is not concentrated at night. Newborns take short naps around the clock, sleeping in 1-3 hour increments throughout the day and night.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that newborns get 14-17 hours of sleep per 24 hours. Since their sleep cycle is not yet consolidated, they obtain this through napping frequently.
As babies get older and approach 6 months of age, their sleep starts to consolidate more at night. However, daytime naps remain essential for babies under 1 year old. Daytime sleep prevents them from getting overtired, which can make it harder for them to sleep at night.
Benefits of Napping in a Dark Room
There are several potential benefits to having a newborn nap in a dark room during the day:
1. Promotes Day/Night Differentiation
Having a dark room during daytime naps can help promote day/night differentiation for the newborn. Exposure to light sends signals to the brain that it is time to be awake and alert. Keeping the room dark while napping prevents this stimulus.
Over time, the dark room can help the newborns establish their circadian rhythms and sleep more at night as they associate the dark room with sleep time.
2. Limits Distractions
A dark room also limits visual distractions that may disrupt the newborn’s sleep. Things like sunlight, shadows, or movements are minimized in a dark space. This helps create an environment conducive to uninterrupted, quality napping.
3. Reduces Overstimulation
Newborns are easily overstimulated, especially in their first few months of life. Keeping the room dark while they sleep reduces stimulation and allows their developing brains to rest.
Too much visual stimulation during sleep can negatively impact nighttime sleep.
4. May Lead to Longer Naps
Some studies have shown that newborns take longer naps in dark rooms compared to napping in natural light rooms. The dark environment seems to promote deeper and more continuous sleep patterns.
Benefits of Napping in a Light Room
While a dark room has its advantages, napping in a light room also has some benefits:
1. Easier for Monitoring Baby
Napping in a light room allows parents to easily check on their newborn while they sleep. Infants this young should be monitored while sleeping to watch their breathing and ensure safety. A dark room makes this more difficult.
2. Helps Set Day/Night Cycle
Allowing some light in the room during daytime naps reinforces the difference between night and day. At night, the room is dark. During daylight hours, allowing some light in may help cue the newborn that it’s still daytime.
3. May Lead to Longer Night Sleep
Some newborns nap better in natural light and don’t sleep as deeply. This may help them be more alert and sleep for longer stretches at night if their daytime sleep is lighter.
4. Lets Parents Observe Sleep Cues
A light room allows parents to observe the newborn’s sleep cues like eye movements, facial changes, and body movements. This helps guide them on when the newborn is drowsy and ready for sleep.
Other Considerations for Newborn Daytime Sleep
In addition to the level of light, there are other environmental factors to consider for newborn daytime sleep:
The room should be as quiet as possible for daytime naps. Loud noises and sounds can disrupt newborn sleep even in the earliest stages. White noise like a fan or ambient noise machine can help dampen other household noises.
The room should be a comfortable temperature – not too hot or cold. Overheating during sleep is linked to an increased risk of SIDS. Use light breathable blankets as needed to maintain an ideal temperature.
Newborns should be placed on their back for all sleep until they reach 1 year old. The back position is safest for sleeping to prevent SIDS.
The baby should nap in a firm crib or bassinet without any loose bedding, pillows, or stuffed animals around them. This reduces the risk of suffocation.
Setting Up the Ideal Newborn Napping Room
Here are some tips for creating the ideal napping environment:
- Make the room dark – Install room darkening shades or curtains and keep lights off. Use a dim nightlight if needed.
- Create white noise – Use a fan, white noise machine, or ambient noise app to provide a consistent neutral sound.
- Ensure stable temperature – Keep the room around 65-72°F and use light blankets as needed.
- Choose a quiet space – Pick a room away from household noises. Avoid napping in noisy places.
- Allow some light – Don’t make it pitch black. Allow some indirect daylight if possible for circadian rhythm benefits.
- Use blackout shades – Shade windows with blackout curtains to allow complete darkness when needed.
- Place baby safely – Always put newborns to sleep on their back in a bare crib or bassinet.
How to Help a Newborn Sleep in a Dark Room
If your newborn is used to napping in a light room, they may resist sleeping in darkness initially. Here are tips for easing the transition to dark room napping:
- Start dimming lights in the nap room in the days leading up to the switch. Slowly progress to darker settings.
- Maintain the same nap time routines like swaddling, white noise, pacifier use in the dark room. Consistency is key.
- Wait until baby is drowsy and showing sleep cues before putting them in the dark room. Don’t put them down wide awake.
- Check on them frequently at first when you put them down in the dark room. Comfort them as needed.
- Use night lights and dimmers to provide some low light at first if complete darkness is resisted.
- Try napping in a darkened space during stroller rides or babywearing walks before naps in the crib.
With time, patience, and consistency, newborns can adapt to primarily napping in dark rooms during the day. Pay attention to how well your individual baby sleeps and adjust as needed.
Setting a Nap Schedule
In addition to the sleep environment, new parents should aim to establish some consistency with nap schedules. At this age, most babies will not stick to a strict timeline but some general daytime nap guidelines include:
- Time first nap around 1-2 hours after the morning wakeup time
- Nap every 1.5 – 3 hours with 30 minutes of awake time between naps
- Set naptimes for around the same time daily as much as possible
- Put to bed drowsy but awake and allow them to fall asleep independently
- Watch sleepy cues like rubbing eyes, yawning, and fussiness to initiate naptime
- Allow one longer nap of 2 or more sleep cycles in the early afternoon
Naps should be between 30 minutes – 2 hours depending on the individual baby. As they reach 4-6 months, nap schedules consolidate to about 2-3 naps per day.
Solutions for Newborns Who Resist Sleeping in the Dark
Some newborns may resist daytime sleep if they are put down in a dark room after becoming accustomed to napping in the light. Here are some tips for babies who fight dark room sleep:
- Go even slower with light adjustments – dim lights over the course of weeks leading to darkness
- Try lighting only one side of the room instead of making it completely dark
- Use night lights or dimmers to provide a low level of light
- Begin naps in a dark room during stroller rides or babywearing
- Maintain nap routines like swaddling and white noise in the dark room
- Ensure the temperature is comfortable – not too cold in the dark
- Check on them frequently but don’t stimulate them too much with eye contact or talking
- Have father or other caregiver put them down if resisting one parent
- Consider light filtering window shades to allow some light and darkness
With patience, newborns can adapt to primarily napping in dark settings during the day in most cases. But don’t force it if they continue resisting after 2-4 weeks of trying a darkened environment.
Transitioning Older Babies to Dark Room Napping
If your baby is past the newborn stage and did not regularly nap in darkness, around 3-6 months you can begin transitioning them. Here are some tips:
- Slowly start dimming lights during naptime over the course of a week or two
- Maintain consistent nap routines like white noise, swaddling, pacifier, etc.
- Darken the room but use dim lights or nightlights at first
- Put them down drowsy but awake and let them learn to self-soothe in the dark
- Check on them frequently at first but don’t stimulate them too much
- Draw the blackout shades but leave some light filtering in at first
- Sit with them in a darkened room to nap before putting them in the crib
- Try early afternoon naps first in the dark since they sleep deepest then
- Consider using a sleep training method if they resist the transition
The key is gradually easing them into napping in darkness over time. With consistency in routines and scheduling, they can learn to sleep in a dark setting.
Should Newborns Nap in a Dark or Light Room?
In conclusion, there are pros and cons to both darkened and naturally lit rooms for newborn daytime sleep. Here are some final tips on choosing what works best:
- Observe your individual baby’s sleep/wake patterns and adjust the light accordingly
- If having trouble sleeping in darkness, allow some dim light during naps
- Make the room as dark as possible during night sleep to promote circadian rhythms
- Check on them frequently if room is completely dark for safety
- Try to maintain day/night differentiation for sleep consolidation
- Stick to a naptime routine and schedule regardless of light level
- Transition gradually over weeks from light to dark rooms if needed
- Be flexible and pay attention to signs of sleep quality like nap length, night sleep, etc.
- Consider using light-filtering shades to allow adjustments of light
Overall, it is often recommended to provide darkness for at least some of the newborn daytime sleep periods. But remain flexible, responsive, and observant to determine if a completely darkened environment or one with some daylight works best for your baby’s sleep. With time, they will develop healthy sleep habits in both light and dark settings.