Could An Adult Night Light Be The Key To Better Sleep? We Asked A Doctor

It's official: Night lights for grown-ups might be the secret to restful sleep. Most people associate night lights with adorable animal-themed plug-ins. For instance, you likely relied on a night light to ward off nightmares or help you overcome a fear of the dark as a child. However, adult night lights serve another purpose, with many individuals taking to Himalayan salt lamps, sunrise simulator lamps, and fairy string lights to enhance their bedroom environment in the name of self-care. This trend aligns with a series of similar wellness-related rituals and practices, such as micro-medications, cozy cardio, and the wildly popular hot girl walk.

To understand the sudden interest in night lights, Gliz sought the advice of Dr. Sanam Hafeez, a New York-based neuropsychologist and the director of Comprehend the Mind. "There's a heightened awareness of the importance of sleep hygiene and its impact on overall health and well-being, prompting individuals to seek simple yet effective solutions," Dr. Hafeez explains in an exclusive chat with Gliz. "The influence of wellness trends and social media platforms has amplified the visibility and desirability of night lights as part of a holistic approach to self-care and wellness practices." As such, it may be time to push past the skepticism and consider the life-altering benefits of investing in an adult night light.

Night lights for comfort and anxiety

As a result of the overstimulating and highly demanding nature of the modern lifestyle, we sometimes experience negative emotions that keep us awake at night. When these emotional patterns remain unaddressed, this can also lead to insomnia. To combat the side effects of a stressful lifestyle, many individuals find themselves attracted to products that encourage relaxation and comfort, Dr. Sanam Hafeez tells Gliz during an exclusive chat. Therefore, one of the main allures of utilizing an adult night light is to help reduce feelings of stress, anxiety, or fear.

For some, adding a night light to the bedroom creates a warm and cozy atmosphere, which fosters a safe and ideal environment for rest. The gentle glow of a bedside lamp or overhead string lights provides "a sense of security and comfort, making it easier for [people] to relax and fall asleep," Dr. Hafeez shares with Gliz. Adding a night light not only creates an aesthetically pleasing setting but also — and more importantly — helps soothe your nerves and encourages your body to wind down for bed.

Use night lights to improve sleep quality

Another compelling reason why light therapy is good for your sleep is that it enhances the overall sleep experience. In other words, trying out an adult night light improves the quality of your shut-eye and allows you to feel more rested in the morning, which leaves you better prepared for the day ahead. This is especially relevant if you feel uncomfortable lying in the dark. "For some people, complete darkness can be unsettling and may interfere with their ability to fall asleep or stay asleep throughout the night," Dr. Sanam Hafeez tells Gliz exclusively. "Night lights provide a dim, consistent light source that can promote relaxation and improve sleep quality."

That isn't to say that those who prefer complete darkness to fall asleep do not benefit from a night light. On the contrary, night lights can equally benefit these individuals when, for instance, they improve emotional well-being and help the individual slip into a more relaxed state before bed by providing a "cozy atmosphere in the bedroom."

Light influences the sleep-wake cycle

If you have ever had the unfortunate experience of waking to harsh overhead lights, you likely understand how bright lights affect your ability to both fall and remain asleep. "Turning on bright overhead lights during the night can disrupt the body's natural sleep-wake cycle by exposing it to intense light," Dr. Sanam Hafeez shares exclusively with Gliz. What's more, sudden bright lights can also cause you to jolt awake, similar to waking to an obnoxiously loud alarm clock. However, this is not necessarily an ideal way to begin the day. In fact, a 2023 study shared by the University of Virginia found that waking abruptly may contribute to cardiovascular stress and activate the "fight or flight" response.

As such, limiting your exposure to bright white lights before bed and in the morning allows for a smoother transition into wakefulness. This reduces morning stress levels and is less disruptive to your circadian rhythm. In this case, a gentle alarm clock, such as a sunrise simulator lamp, may ease the transition. Most sunrise simulator lights also feature a night light function for use before bed or throughout the night.

The practical uses of a night light

Aside from the physical and mental health benefits of adding a night light to your sleep routine, keeping a light on in the bedroom also provides practical uses for a wide range of needs. For instance, in an exclusive conversation with Gliz, Dr. Sanam Hafeez explains that "night lights can also serve a practical purpose by illuminating the bedroom environment. They can help individuals navigate their surroundings safely, especially during nighttime trips to the bathroom or when moving around in unfamiliar surroundings."

Many people would benefit from assistance navigating the bedroom after dark, such as those with vision impairments or medical conditions that affect mobility and coordination. Night lights with accessibility features would be useful here, including sensor lights, voice activation, or remote control functions. Moreover, the advantages of night lights don't stop there. Light therapy — in conjunction with talk therapy — benefits individuals who experience seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and may also benefit those with nonseasonal depression, per a 2018 study published in BJPsych Open.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Night light do's and don'ts

The benefits of using a night light as an adult are undeniable. That said, certain lights in particular can influence the quality of your sleep. "The most beneficial amount and type of light for sleep typically involve those that support the body's natural circadian rhythm and promote relaxation," Dr. Sanam Hafeez exclusively explains to Gliz.

To make the most of this soothing self-care practice, Dr. Hafeez recommends finding a night light with dim lighting and warm or amber-hued light. "Dim lighting helps signal to the body that it's time to wind down and prepare for sleep by promoting the production of melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles," Dr. Hafeez shares. Similarly, warm orange-yellow tones "mimic the colors of sunset and candlelight," which promotes a sense of calmness and comfort.

Moreover, Dr. Hafeez suggests avoiding blue light in the hours leading up to bedtime, as it "can interfere with melatonin production and disrupt sleep patterns." Note that most electronic devices, including LED screens and certain night lights, emit blue light, so limit your electronic use before bed to improve sleep hygiene. Ultimately, night lights for grown-ups are expert-approved, as they complement your self-care routine, aid sleep quality, and offer health benefits.