There are plenty of things we use or engage in as children that have entirely practical applications once you’ve ‘grown up.” Exhibit A: Night lights, those little lights you plug into the wall, soaking a room or hallway with dim, soothing light. Night lights are usually associated with little kids who are scared of the dark, which means most of us repudiate them once we see ourselves as adults (or at least adult-ish). The association between night lights and fussy babies is just too strong.
But night lights are a great idea. There are plenty of reasons you should have a few night lights set up in your house, and almost zero reasons not to.
Night lights are great for safety
Easily the number one reason you want night lights in your life is safety. Living in pitch blackness at night is all fun and games until you trip over a cat sleeping on your stairs and fall to your doom, or stub your toe on a dumbbell left on the floor causing a pain so intense you briefly see God. Night lights offer soft illumination that doesn’t ruin the quiet ambiance of a sleepy house or give you night blindness by straining your eyes. People tend to think of vision issues as something only the elderly need to worry about, but science tells us that every single human, no matter their age, needs light to see, and needs to see if they’re going to avoid tripping over stuff in the dark.
Night lights are great for security
There’s a reason flight attendants always tell you that the aisle in your aircraft will be illuminated if both engines catch fire and you’re about to be rudely introduced to the ocean: Light helps a lot when there’s trouble. You might love sleeping in a house that’s so dark you start to disassociate from reality, but if there’s an emergency you’re going to want some light to navigate by.
Night lights are great for sleep
OK, there’s a lot of evidence that sleeping with lights on in your bedroom can have an adverse effect on your sleep. But it’s important to note that this applies mainly to bright and white light, which can fool your body into remaining in a state of relative alertness even when you’re unconscious, resulting in poor sleep quality. As we’ll see, the right night light in your bedroom can actually help you sleep better. If your bedroom is dark as a subterranean cave and you’re still struggling to get a good night’s rest, consider adding a night light.
How to choose a night light
So if you’re tired of living in a void, how do you choose a night light? A few things to consider:
- Lumens. Every light in your home, including night lights (even the fancy LED kind) has a “lumens” value, which is a measurement of how much light they give off. For a night light, you want to keep that value at 50 or lower. By comparison, an average everyday light bulb puts out somewhere between 1,500 and 2,000 lumens, so your night light won’t be very intrusive.
- Colour. Night lights don’t have to be white light — you can find night lights in a variety of colours. If you’re putting a night light in your bedroom and you’re worried about the quality of your sleep, choose a red night light. There’s growing evidence that soft red light can help you fall asleep and experience better-quality sleep. In other areas of the house, yellow lights are best. White or blue lights can actually trick your brain into thinking it’s daylight, which can screw up your biorhythms.
- Motion sensors. Having night lights equipped with motion sensors can offer a perfect balance between your desire for soothing darkness while you’re trying to sleep and the management of your safety and security concerns. When you’re snoring away it can be perfectly dark, but the moment you make your way to the bathroom the lights flick on, saving you from death by Matchbox car or Lego brick. You can even install motion-activated lights under your bed.
- Bulb. You can still buy old-school incandescent night lights, but they’re not very energy efficient, and the heat they produce can actually be dangerous. These days an LED is a better choice. They’ll last for years and sip electricity, and they don’t produce heat so you don’t have to worry about the bulb marking the paint on your wall or cause other, more serious problems.
- Adjustable. You can buy dimmable night lights that allow you to adjust the brightness, so you can experiment with different levels of brightness until you find the right balance for your needs.
Far from being childish, night lights actually improve our lives — they make us safer, can help us sleep, and ensure that the monster under the bed stays there.