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The term ‘nightlight’ refers to any small light fixture that provides soft illumination in darkened rooms. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, roughly 90 million nightlights are purchased in the United States each year. Parents often install nightlights in the bedrooms of young children, particularly if the children are afraid of being alone in the dark. Nightlights may also be used in bathrooms, as a visual aid for stairs and other potential obstacles or hazards. Additionally, some public places (such as movie theaters) utilize nightlights to display emergency exit routes.
Nightlights used in homes come in all shapes and sizes, and shoppers can choose from multiple design options, including plug-in fixtures, projectors, and plush toys with built-in lights. The price-point varies by brand and model, but most nightlights cost less than $30. There are several benefits to using nightlights in a child’s bedroom — although parents should also take note of certain safety risks associated with these devices.
This guide will look at some of the advantages of using a nightlight, shopping considerations, safety tips, and top-rated models according to customers and owners. First, let’s look at some common nightlight designs.
Nightlights, by definition, are designed to provide a soft, soothing glow that will not interfere with sleep. In fact, many children fall asleep easier with a nightlight, particularly if they display a fear of the dark. Parents of newborns, infants, and toddlers who must check on their children at night also return to sleep much more easily after spending time in a room with a nightlight, as opposed to a room illuminated with overhead light.
Nightlights are normally electrical fixtures designed for incandescent bulbs, halogen bulbs, compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), or light-emitting diodes (LEDs). The table below lists some notable similarities and differences between these two light sources.
|Light Source||Incandescent Bulb||Halogen Bulbs||Compact Fluorescent Lights (CFLs)||Light-emitting Diode (LED)|
|How is light produced?||The bulb is outfitted with tungsten wire filaments that produce light when heated to a certain temperature.||The bulb is also outfitted with tungsten wire filaments, but halogen gas mixes with tungsten vapor.||An electrical current runs through a tube with argon and mercury vapor; the vapor produces ultraviolet (UV) light that in turn creates visible light.||Positive and negative charge currents are combined to produce energy that manifests as light.|
|Wattage||60W||60W||13W to 18W||10W|
|Average unit lifespan||1,000 to 2,000 hours||3,600 hours||6,000 to 8,000 hours||15,000 to 30,000 hours|
|Average price-point (per unit)||$2 or less||$1 to $3||$2 or less||$3 to $6|
|Hot to the touch?||Very; incandescent bulbs cause burns if they come into direct contact with human skin.||Extremely; halogen bulbs burn even hotter than incandescent bulbs — so much so that they can damage carpets.||Very; The heat generated by CFL bulbs is comparable to that of incandescent bulbs, and will burn the skin on impact.||Somewhat; LED lights may cause pain, but they do not produce nearly as much heat as incandescent, halogen, or CFL bulbs.|
As the table indicates, LEDs — while more expensive — are also more efficient than incandescent, halogen, and CFL bulbs because they do not waste as much energy to supply the heat needed to produce light. They also pose less of a burn risk, which is an important consideration for parents of children that may get out of bed during the night. However, it’s important to note that the bulbs used in nightlights are smaller with lower wattages (typically 10 watts or less), and do not have the same lifespan as standard bulbs; the average nightlight will perform for 1,000 to 3,000 hours.
Additionally, electroluminescent nightlights do not feature any bulbs at all; the light is emitted from a material responding to an electrical current or charge.
Historically, nightlights were manually operated with an on-off switch. Some models made today are equipped with daylight sensors that automatically turn on or off depending on how dark the room is, and motion sensors that trigger the light whenever someone enters the room. Others feature a sleep timer that powers off the nightlight after the preset amount of time.
The most popular types of nightlights include the following:
The table below lists some pricing details, design characteristics, and pros and cons of these different types.
|Power source||Electrical outlet||Electrical outlet or batteries||Batteries||Batteries||Electrical outlet or batteries|
|Average price-point||Less than $10||Less than $20||$10 to $40||$20 to $40||Less than $20|
Most have light sensors
Many have timers and/or music options
Can be placed anywhere in the room
|Extra security for children who are afraid of the dark||Provides reading light for older children|
|Cons||Dependent on outlet location/cord length|
Incandescent models may damage carpets
|Will not properly project images if too far/close to the surface||Higher price-point|
|Can disrupt sleep if light is too bright|
May be dependent on outlet location/cord length
In addition to these nightlight types, some parents utilize candles of flame-lit tea lights for nighttime bedroom illumination. However, these light sources carry inherent fire risks, and we do not recommend using them in any bedroom — especially a child’s.
Next, let’s look at some benefits of using a nightlight, as well as one notable disadvantage that consumers should be aware of when shopping and comparing models.
Some benefits of using a nightlight include:
Now, let’s discuss a significant downside to using certain types of nightlights: light exposure. Human eyes perceive each wavelength of light as a different color. The shortest wavelength appears to be purple, or violet, and longer wavelengths appear as blue, green, yellow, and orange; the longest wavelength appears as red. Additionally, ‘white light’ occurs when our eyes see all light wavelengths at once; the color white is actually a combination of all possible colors (black, its opposite, is a complete absence of color).
In recent years, sleep researchers have found that certain colors of light — namely, blue and white — inhibit the production of melatonin, a natural hormone that triggers our sleep cycle. Melatonin is light-sensitive, meaning that it is produced during times of perceived darkness; another hormone, cortisol, triggers feelings of alertness when our bodies are exposed to natural sunlight. White and blue lights essentially fool the brain into thinking it is daytime, and this misinformation hinders the secretion of melatonin. As a result, children who are exposed to blue or white light before bed often have a harder time falling asleep.
Red light, on the other hand, does not interfere with melatonin production because of its exceptionally long wavelength. Unfortunately, many nightlights on the market feature white or blue light. Parents are strongly urged to use nightlights that produce red light or, as a backup, green light; if these models are available, then nightlights that produce relatively low amounts of white and/or blue light are recommended. Alternatively, some nightlights can have adjustable light colors that allow parents to toggle between different light color settings.
Now let’s look at some of the safety risks associated with nightlights, and also some strategies to minimize these risks in your child’s bedroom.
Of the 90 million nightlights bought nationwide each year, hundreds of thousands are recalled due to product safety risks. The National Association of Certified Home Inspectors notes the following safety concerns associated with nightlights:
Fire risk: Nightlights, particularly models with incandescent of CFL bulbs, generate a considerable amount of heat that can cause them to melt and catch fire. Although nightlight-related fires are rarely reported, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) receives roughly 10 reports per year of nightlights that have ignited various flammable materials, such as sheets and bath tissue. To minimize fire risk, nightlight owners should:
Poisoning: Certain nightlights contain a toxic material called methylene chloride (often used as a paint stripper) that can be fatal when it is inhaled or it comes into contact with human skin. If these nightlights break, the device should immediately be disposed of in a safe manner.
Electric shock: Nightlights should never be used outdoors because they pose a shock risk if they become wet. This also applies to covered locations that are susceptible to dampness, such as garages and patios with pools or hot tubs. Additionally, the shock risk for nightlights is greater if the device is powered using an extension cord or power strip.
Now that we have covered nightlight designs and safety concerns, let’s look at some important factors to keep in mind when comparing different brands and models.
Now let’s look at the best nightlights according to owners. The following table lists the five top-rated nightlights based on verified customer and owner experiences.
|Brand||Gummygoods||LimeLite||Maxxima||Safety 1st||Summer Infant|
|Model||Squeezable Gummy Bear||Night Light 11100||Multi-Color Nightlight||LED Nightlight||Slumber Buddies (5 animals)|
|Price (est.)||$30.00||$3.20||$12.00 (set of 2)||$7.00 (1) or $15.00 (2)||$15.50|
|Nightlight Type||Portable/Toy||Plug-in||Plug-in||Plug-in||Portable/Toy with projector|
|Dimensions||3W” x |
|0.9W” x |
|Weight||15.0 oz.||0.8 oz.||0.3 oz.||3.5 oz.||1 lb.|
|Bulbs Used||LED||Electroluminescent (no bulbs)||LED||LED||LED|
|Electrical outlet||Electrical outlet||Electrical outlet||Batteries|
|On/Off Mechanism||Manual switch triggered by squeezing||Automatic on/off when plugged in||Manual switch with dawn/dusk sensors||Auto sensor||Manual switch|
|Sleep Timer||60 min.||None||None||None||Up to 45 min.|
|Warranty Length||90 days||10 years||1 year||None||None|
|Tuck Customer Satisfaction Rating||91% (606 customer reviews)||95% (98 customer reviews)||92% (342 customer reviews)||90% (956 customer reviews)||91% (1,048 customer reviews)|
In addition to using a nightlight, here are a few more ways to help your children fall asleep at night.
For more information about sleep issues and strategies for young children and their parents, please visit the following Tuck.com pages: