Let There Be Light—Except at Night!

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Some parents believe that they prepare their toddlers for “the real world” by making sure that they’re not overly quiet when their children are sleeping, reasoning that it might make kids dependent on silence for good sleep.  Similarly, some don’t worry about whether there is light in their kid’s bedroom.

However, a recent study shows that people who didn’t previously have depression actually “exhibited a significantly higher depression risk” when their bedrooms weren’t completely dark when they slept.  The study took place over a two-year period, and included monitoring and diaries of the people who participated.

The study used the measurement of “lux” light, according to Time magazine, which explains that ten lux is like looking at a candle from about a foot away. The people who experienced more than five “lux” of light (half that) were much more likely to develop symptoms of depression. The study, says Time, theorized that one’s perception of light at night can keep your body from secreting the sleep-producing hormone melatonin, or could disturb your body’s “internal clock” which normally thinks of darkness as a time for sleep and light as a time to wake up.

True, the study was on adults in their 70’s. However, Time quotes the researchers as saying, “The capacity for light reception of a 70-year old is one-fifth that of a teenager.”

So if the equivalent of candlelight could cause depression in adults, what might it do to a kid whose mind is processing five times that amount? What might it do to a toddler?

What can you do to promote more restful sleep for your kid?

1) Maintain a regular sleep schedule for your kid.

2)  Keep your house as quiet as possible when your kid is sleeping.

3) Invest in blackout curtains, and use only minimal nightlights that you and your kid see as essential for safety and to quell fears.

4) Ask your doctor about whether melatonin pills (relatively inexpensive and available at any drugstore) is a good idea for your teenager.

5)  No television, tablets, electronic games, or cell phones in your child’s bedroom

6)  Promote a sense of peace and security for your child by observing some rituals such as sharing a comforting Bible verse and praying together with your child before they go to sleep. Here’s a list to get you started.  Also share with your child any verses from your own personal Bible study that are helpful to you. This will create both trust in God’s Word and trust in you as your child sees you depending on God, too.

Since 1992, Dr. Robinson has worked in a variety counseling positions. She is also a popular author and speaker on topics ranging from childhood development and sexuality, teen issues, family dynamics including caring for elderly relatives, and church resources for families.

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