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Is It OK to Use a Night Light?

Dear Heather,

My son is 3 years old, and he needs a light on to fall asleep. Is that OK? It seems too bright to me, but he insists on it.

Dim or dimmer?

Dear DoD,

For the most part, light at night isn't a good idea. Even a moderately bright light during the night sends the wrong signals to the body's internal clock, which naturally wants darkness during sleeping hours. When we do sleep consultations, we always ask parents to lower the shades and turn on all the lights that might be on during a typical night—it's very common for too much light to come from overhead, hall or even night lights and electronics.

I'd recommend nothing more than a very dim nightlight.

RELATED: How Can We Keep Our Son Out of Our Bed?

Kids get hooked on leaving lights on, just as with any other sleep habit, but it's almost always possible to wean them off. You could gradually lower the lights every other night. Tell your son you're doing this, rather than trying to trick him, because eventually he'll catch on. Or practice other comforting techniques to combat fears of the dark.

If he says he's afraid, tell him what you do when you're afraid and what you did as a kid when you were afraid. Practice shifting your mind to a positive story or image. (There are lots of other techniques for working with fears of the dark and separation anxiety in the preschool chapter of "The Happy Sleeper.")

RELATED: Why Does My Toddler Wake Up Screaming?

It may seem impossible to have him sleep in a dark room, but I bet he can do it with a little practice.

Sleep happy,


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Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her home consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.


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