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April 26, 2006 2:36 PM   Subscribe

Can I use a red darkroom lightbulb in the nursery at night without harming the baby's vision?

My wife and I are expecting a baby in August, and I'm starting to come up with various related science projects. I was reading this article about melatonin, light at night, and breast cancer, and it got me thinking about how to best combat my impending sleep deprivation.

The article says that melatonin levels get all messed up when a person is exposed to bright light in the middle of the night. Since melatonin is involved in sleep cycle regulation, it seems like it's a bad idea to be turning on a bright light every time the baby wakes up. This abstract on melatonin suppression says that it's mainly short wavelength light that suppresses nocturnal melatonin emission.

Since red light has the longest wavelength, it seems like a darkroom light bulb would be best for keeping my sleep from getting messed up. On the other hand, the baby's visual system is probably still developing during the first few months.

Is this a worthwhile concern, or should I go ahead and make a hybrid nursery/darkroom?
posted by landtuna to Health & Fitness (18 answers total)
 
I don't think you really need to be concerned about this. How bright is the light going to be in your nursery? Can you just turn on a nightlight?
posted by bshort at 2:40 PM on April 26, 2006


Assume this is for middle-of-the-night feedings? You'll be surprised at how little light you really need to feed or even do diaper changes. We rarely turned on a real lamp or overhead - just had nightlights (4 w bulb) in their rooms and the hallways. Now, my son has a lava lamp (blue liquid w/ white lava) for just-enough-light to get to the bathroom if he needs it.
posted by SashaPT at 2:40 PM on April 26, 2006


Well.. it's a developing child! Sorry. Couldn't resist.

I am not an eye doc... but I don't think there's anything harmful. It's really just light of the same wavelength of red that black and white film is blind to.
posted by The Deej at 2:41 PM on April 26, 2006


I guess I don't know to what degree the intensity of the light matters as opposed to the wavelength, so a dim red light would cover both.
posted by landtuna at 2:41 PM on April 26, 2006


Also, maybe I could read while waiting for whatever's going on to finish if the light wasn't just a dim nightlight.
posted by landtuna at 2:44 PM on April 26, 2006


I'm guessing night vision goggles would be overkill.
posted by TimeFactor at 2:50 PM on April 26, 2006


I offer the answer that stressing about the natural process of child raising that has occured for many millions of years is more harmful than the off-chance you happen to get breast cancer from turning on a light in the middle of the night for a few months.
posted by kcm at 2:51 PM on April 26, 2006


I'm not worried about getting breast cancer. I just want to reduce the jet-lag-like symptoms that interrupted sleep causes.
posted by landtuna at 2:54 PM on April 26, 2006


You're making this far to complicated. Relax, don't stress out so much, and your kid will be more relaxed also. For example, don't race to pick up the baby immediately. Give it 10 minutes. That way it won't expect instant gratification at all hours.

And don't worry about your sleep cycles. As a new parent, you will be so short of sleep anyway that everytime you lay down you will fall asleep in about 10 seconds.

The subject at hand: just buy a regular night light. I've used Indiglo-type versions which are low power, but about half of them die after a few months — the backing seems pretty sensitive to plugging and unplugging. If there's no switch, hang a cloth over it and pull it back when you need to see.

Just googling around, I found a red LED night light. You can turn it on when you need it and it won't disturb your baby's eye development.
posted by Araucaria at 2:59 PM on April 26, 2006


When those articles talk about "bright light" they mean things like sun lamps.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 3:13 PM on April 26, 2006


I can tell you what we did with our twins.

We had a clock in their room that barely had any light at all. When they woke up to be fed, my husband and I would trek into the room with their bottles and, with the help of the barely visible light, would feed them. Eventually, our eyes would adjust, and the darker the room, the better they'd be able to have their "dream feeds" and go back to sleep.

It was a bit challenging when our daughter would puke after every meal (try cleaning up several piles of vomit in the dark - NOT FUN!) or during our one hilarious episode where I accidentally forgot to attach the nipple to the bottle and actually dumped an entire 6 ounces of formula all over my son. He cried for a minute, we laughed for weeks...and he STILL managed to go back to sleep with little difficulty.

Regarding their developing eyesight, well, we weren't given any guidance one way or another by their pediatrician, but we have never used a nightlight with them, and their vision seems to be pretty good.

And my boobs are fine.
posted by OhPuhLeez at 3:28 PM on April 26, 2006


Dude, no way is a red light going to do squat for your baby-induced sleep deprivation. You're just gonna have to get used to it for a while. New parents walk around like the living dead half the time. It's part of the joy!
posted by rikschell at 4:29 PM on April 26, 2006


And my boobs are fine.

Not to derail, here, but WTF does that have to do with what you said?

Seriously - I'm not trying to be an ass - I'm genuinely interested.
posted by plaidrabbit at 5:17 PM on April 26, 2006


Artificial light / melatonin disruption was tied to breast cancer in the original poster's question. Hence, the "boobs are fine" remark.
posted by lorrer at 5:51 PM on April 26, 2006


"Also, maybe I could read while waiting for whatever's going on to finish if the light wasn't just a dim nightlight."

As I recall (my dad was an amateur astronomer), it's pretty difficult to read by red light. I seem to remember a lot of eyestrain when I tried it as a kid.
posted by muddgirl at 6:09 PM on April 26, 2006


Artificial light / melatonin disruption was tied to breast cancer in the original poster's question. Hence, the "boobs are fine" remark.

Ah. Right. Sorry.
posted by plaidrabbit at 6:30 PM on April 26, 2006


Not to derail, here, but WTF does that have to do with what you said?

You know what? I'm OhPuhLeez's husband, and I want to know WTF that had to do with anything, as well. I suspect she originally typed details of a related story, but decided to pull that part of it, and forgot to remove the last line.

However: honey, is there something I need to know about your breasts? I mean, other than the stuff I already know?
posted by davejay at 7:12 PM on April 26, 2006


See above.

Jeez, doesn't ANYONE read the original questions ;)? I mean, besides me and Lorrer and a few others?
posted by OhPuhLeez at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2006


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