The Best Night Lights
After more than 50 hours of testing and research, we determined that the Maxxima – LED Multi-Color Night Light is the best night-light on the market. In addition to a month of detailed testing, we continued to use the Maxxima night-light for an additional nine months in our homes.
That testing, in conjunction with our conversation with a neuroscientist about what kinds of night-light are best for sleep, reinforced that the Maxxima is best for most bedrooms. Read on to find out how we chose this winner, as well as the advantages to using red light instead of white or blue as a bedroom night-light for you or your children.
Table of Contents
- Compare the best night lights
- 1. Best overall: Maxxima – LED Multi-Color
- 2. Best for children: VAVA
- 3. Honorable mention: Maxxima – Swivel LED
- Other finalists we tested
- How we selected finalists to test
- How we tested
- Why trust us
- Long-term testing notes
- The bottom line
Compare the best night lights
|Maxxima - LED Multi-Color||Mixed||$$|
|Maxxima - LED Night Light with Swivel Head||Children||$$|
|Gummygoods Night Light - Red||Children||$$$|
|IKEA - SPÖKA Night Light - Short||Children||$$$|
|Safety 1st - LED Nightlight||Mixed||$|
|Goline - Cute Kitty||Children||$$$|
|Skip Hop - Toddler Sleep Trainer||Children||$$$$|
|KinderGlo - Portable Night Light (discontinued)||Children||$$$|
1. Best overall: Maxxima – LED Multi-Color
While all six of the night-lights we tested serve a purpose, none of them are as multi-purpose as the Maxxima – LED Multi-Color Night Light. We liked this night-light above all the others because it is affordable, has great build quality, and offers greater versatility than any other product we tested.
In terms of affordability, the Maxxima is very affordable at $5.99 for one and $10.99 for a two-pack. The LED bulb is rated to last for 100,000 hours, which translates to approximately 11-1/2 years of continuous use. The electrical cost for LED bulbs is negligible as well — with estimates around 25 cents per year with typical use.
The “multi” feature of the Maxxima – LED Multi-Color Night Light is easy to use: A small switch on the front of the light quickly and easily changes the light color to red, white or blue.
We spoke at length with Tracy Bedrosian, a Ph.D in Neuroscience from Ohio State University. She went into detail about her research covering the negative impacts of using blue light at night.
Red lighting is the ideal setting for nighttime, particularly in the bedroom, since Dr. Bedrosian’s research indicated that while “warm” yellow-white LEDs present less risk of disrupting your sleep rhythm, red lights have a far smaller effect.
That said, red lighting has its downside — namely, it doesn’t help you see very well. While it’s still a good choice for a dim bedroom light, it’s not as helpful if you’re trying not to step on LEGO bricks.
Fortunately, the Maxxima night light can produce brighter light with its white LED bulb. This setting is ideal for hallways, bathrooms and anywhere else where additional light is needed. Even better, we didn’t find the white light to be particularly blue, so brief exposure shouldn’t dramatically impact sleep patterns.
The Maxxima’s auto on/off sensor was particularly effective as well. Its sensor seemed to be well-tuned and quickly turned on the night-light when ambient light dimmed.
We also appreciated that, unlike other night lights with an ambient light sensor, the Maxxima didn’t flicker in between turning on and turning off; instead, the light turns on and off gradually.
The light from the Maxxima LED Multi-Colorstrikes an effective balance between providing enough light to be useful, but it’s dim enough that it won’t keep you awake.
With its long lifespan, affordable pricing and versatility, the Maxxima LED Multi-Color Night Light was easily the best pick of our finalists.
2. Best for children: VAVA
If you want a night light that’s more tailored for a child’s bedroom, the VAVA – VA-CL006 is our pick.
One major advantage to the VAVA is its portability. Like our former pick for this category, the now-discontinued Kinderglo, the VAVA includes a charging base that makes topping up the battery easy. It includes a high-quality micro-USB-to-USB charging cable. (Like all the other rechargeable lights we tested, you’ll have to use a wall-plug AC-to-USB-5V adapter you already own.)
While it’s not as immediately huggable as the soft silicone animals we tested, our 2- and 4-year-old testers pretended the VAVA was an egg, a Pokeball and a spaceship before they found out you can give it a face with the included stickers. Being made from hard polycarbonate plastic, it’s heavier than silicone-bubble designs, but that also makes it more resistant to teething toddlers.
While it doesn’t offer the multi-color light modes that can give you a pure red light for the lowest possible triggering of your hypothalamus-activating retina cells, VAVA does let you switch this light to a warm-white mode that minimizes blue light exposure.
If you’d like to minimize blue light with some of the same features as this light, VAVA also makes the CL009, which includes red-green-blue light modes. We picked the CL006 for its charging base and simple controls — not to mention the stickers.
The VAVA makes up for colored-light modes with far more control over the light it gives off. While the other kids’ lights have a few brightness settings you can activate with their remotes, the VAVA responds quickly and consistently to a tap on its top to smoothly raise or lower the light level. The diffusion of the light is also more useful for filling the dark corners with a gentle glow. For another simple, outlet light, check out our kids’ room pick for Himalayan salt lamps.
3. Honorable mention: Maxxima – LED with Swivel Head
Although not as versatile as Maxxima’s multi-color night-light, we were so impressed by this night-light that we had to give it an Honorable mention. The Maxxima – LED Night Light with Swivel Head is a cheap ($3.59) light that provides sufficient light for a bathroom, and to a lesser extent a hallway.
Just like the Maxxima LED Multi-Color, the Swivel night-light has an auto on/off switch which prevents the light from being on when it is not needed. We found the swivel to be particularly useful for the bathroom, because the light can be directed towards the sink or toilet, and not directly into your eyes.
While this is a great night-light, we chose the Maxxima LED Multi-Color over this one for two main reasons: The light is a little too bright and directed to be an effective night-light, and more importantly, there isn’t a red light setting available.
That being said, for under $4, this is a great night-light for the bathroom, or a small hallway where stubbing your toe is a risk you’d like to avoid.
Other finalists we tested
The other three night-lights we tested in-house were great as well. However, they were each limited, or outdone, in one way or another by our top three picks. That being said, they are worth taking a look at, as each does fulfill a specific niche.
Safety 1st LED Nightlight
Rounding out our test of popular LED lights is a budget-friendly design from Safety 1st. There isn’t really anything wrong with it: It’s cheap ($7.99 for two when we tested), doesn’t get hot, and provides a decent amount of light for hallways and bathrooms. However, there is no red LED option, and the light it generates is not focused in any way. This is the most basic night light we’d consider.
Goline – Cute Kitty
Other options for a nursery or kids’ room are mostly some variation on the animal or character theme. The Goline – Cute Kitty with Remote is the new standard for animal-shaped night lights, though whether Goline was actually the first company to use this shape and set of features is hard to tell. Similar lights in this and other shapes are now popping up everywhere.
Instead of a single LED, this model uses red, green and blue, plus warm-white LEDs for a wide range of color settings — 16 tints in all, which can also be set to cycle in a slow fade between tints. Battery life on the Goline Kitty was about the same as the Lumipets Bear: Both will run for three nights if you remember to turn them off, but the charging base included with the Vava was sorely missed.
The version of this Goline light with a remote is easier to use than models that rely on “touch” sensitivity. The sensor in the base of the light isn’t at all good at detecting gentle taps, and it’s easier for kids to change the light by deliberately dropping it from waist height than by tapping on the top.
The silicone detaches easily from the base without any damage, which is both a blessing and a curse if your toddler is curious about pulling things apart.
If you want a slightly different look than the Cute Kitty you’ve seen in other kids’ bedrooms, the Lumipets – 1911 is a line of night lights that gives you a choice between four soft silicone animal shapes: Bear, Owl, Unicorn and Dragon. Our test family thought the ambivalent half-smile of Bear was most charming, but they’re all more expressive than the Goline cat.
The biggest difference between the Goline and Lumipets is the type of white LEDs inside: Goline has a “warm” yellow-white, while Lumipets has the “cool” blue-white LED color you should avoid. You can select a yellow or red color tint to avoid blue light, but it’s nice to have the option of a warm white.
Skip Hop – Toddler Sleep Trainer
If you want a sleep-time night light, but you’re also interested in trying out a “sleep trainer” that reminds your kids when it’s time to wake up, the Skip Hop – Toddler Sleep Trainer has the key features of both devices.
As a night light, the Skip Hop gives a soft, warm glow, but it’s an expensive option. Also, the light will turn off after 30 minutes, so it won’t be on in the middle of the night if that’s what you need. The Skip Hop sleep-trainer functions don’t work at the same time as the night-light feature.
We were initially excited about the three soothing sound tracks offered: white noise, rain and a lullabye. But the quality is poor enough — quiet and tinny, like a cheap speaker-phone — that our tester went back to using an old smartphone to play a bedtime playlist instead. The sounds can play for a few minutes at the times you set for bed, morning and naptime wake-up, and it’s at least more kid-friendly than the bell or beep sound from most alarm clocks.
The Gummygoods Night Light works similarly to the Kinderglo. However, the fact that it uses AA batteries turned out to be a major, and negative, distinguishing factor. While the Kinderglo can be recharged on its base every day, the Gummygoods night-light needs to either be set to automatically turn off, or you need to be prepared to buy a lot of AA batteries (or spend extra money on rechargeable AA batteries).
On the plus side, the bear is undeniably cute, and the red light can be turned on and off just by squeezing it — something that young children would likely find fun and comforting.
Kinderglo – Portable (discontinued)
Now discontinued, when we did our initial review the Kinderglo – Portable Night-Light was widely regarded by everyone from parenting blogs to Amazon reviewers as among the best night lights for children. It was our pick while it was available.
The build quality of this product was fantastic, with soft touch materials. We tested the Moon model, but it also came in a variety of animal shapes.
As with our new kids’ pick, the Vava, the Kinderglo recharging base worked well. A full charge kept the light on through the night without any problems, and the light could be set to turn off automatically after 30 minutes.
IKEA – SPÖKA (discontinued)
Now discontinued, the SPÖKA from IKEA had an undeniable “cuteness” to it, and the red light was just bright enough to help you see when walking around. It used a rechargeable AAA battery (which is included, along with a charger). The light only lasts for about five hours on a full charge, though, not enough for a full night.
How we selected finalists to test
In our efforts to determine which night lights are best, we spent more than 35 hours reading studies, news articles, blog posts, forums and Reddit threads to learn what the consensus was among experts and users alike.
Once our research helped us determine who we needed to speak with, we contacted several experts and researchers and got in touch with Dr. Bedrosian to ask about her work studying the effects of light at night.
We verifed the information we discussed with Dr. Bedrosian through our own research, and we feel confident that our conclusions are valid for determining which night lights are best for your home.
To find the best night lights available, we narrowed down the potential candidates to only those that used LED bulbs. LED bulbs are widely regarded as better than the other types of bulbs available for night-lights for a few reasons:
Efficiency: LED bulbs produce significantly less heat than incandescent bulbs for the same light output. In addition to making LED bulbs safer, this also means that they are more energy-efficient, since more energy is being used to generate light instead of wasted heat.
Longevity: LED bulbs also last much longer than incandescent bulbs formerly used in night lights. Some manufacturers such as AmerTac, claim that their bulbs will last “forever,” which is only barely an exaggeration.
Despite these pluses, LEDs aren’t perfect. The most efficient LEDs make a near-ultraviolet blue light, which is turned blue-white or yellow-white by shining it through a substance called a “phosphor.” White LED light is often closer to the color of midday sunlight than the yellow tint your brain expects around bedtime.
For night lights that will be used in the bedroom, it is strongly preferable that the lights are red and have as close to zero blue light as possible.
Night lights that are used in hallways or bathrooms are not as much of a concern as bedroom lights. While red light is ideal, sometimes red light simply does not create enough visible contrast to help you avoid stubbing your toe. For situations like that, yellow-tinted “warm white” light is an acceptable — but by no means ideal — alternative.
It was also important that the night lights we selected to test produced sufficient light to be useful, while not creating so much light that they would impair sleep. We used the Pyle PLMT Light Meter to measure how much light each night light produced, as well as how much that light decreased at specific distance intervals.
We discussed the use of this light sensor with Dr. Bedrosian, who said that for our purposes it would be a reliable measure of light emitted by the night lights we tested.
Finally, night-lights that stay plugged into the wall should have an automatic “on/off” sensor, which turns the night lights on when it is dark and off when it is light. In addition to saving unnecessary energy use, this also ensures that the night lights will be automatically lit only when you need them.
With these criteria in mind, we found the night lights that were most highly regarded among consumers and experts, then found the best products among those that also matched the specifications described directly above.
While we ultimately chose what we believe to be the overall “best” product, each of the six night lights are useful and worth purchasing in the right context.
Does the night light you use really matter?
Dr. Bedrosian was one of the two lead researchers on a 2013 study with the Department of Neuroscience at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, and she gave us some key insights into the risk that too much light — and particularly blue-spectrum light — can have for both children and adults.
Dr Bedrosian’s study found that blue-spectrum light overnight — even just the blue contained in white LED or fluorescent light — can trigger a change in brain structure and behavior in adult hamsters. The team theorized that this change may lead to severe health issues, including hormone imbalances, disrupted circadian rhythm, suppressed melatonin secretion and even a potential increase in cancer risk.
The bottom line: If you’re going to have a night light in your room, it should be limited to red-spectrum light. If you have children, this is even more imperative. If you’re reading in bed with a lamp or a book light, sticking to a yellow or red tint should help. If you read on a smartphone, tablet or computer screen before bed, most devices now include a mode that will change the color profile of the screen to reduce blue-light exposure.
How we tested
We used a combination of qualitative testing along with some more quantitative comparisons to rank night lights from best to worst.
When we looked at the overall build quality of each product, we found that, despite the relative affordability of each of the night lights, the Maxxima night lights stood out.
We also measured the amount of light emitted (measured in lux) by each night light at a distance of six inches, two feet, three feet and six feet — a reasonable amount of distance between a bed and a wall socket.
Ideally, a night light will be diffused so that you can see the edges of furniture or obstacles on the floor, but the light won’t flood your eyes when you’re in bed. We visualized the results below:
Measured in lux (a standard unit of brightness), all of our finalists drop off the scale long before they reach six feet. The Maxxima Swivel is the most focused light, while the rest are diffused to a minimal level beyond two feet.
While it’s not as useful for gentle illumination in a bedroom, the directional flood light from the Maxxima Swivel can be aimed where it’s needed — down long hallways or into bathroom corners.
In addition, all of the finalists we tested will have a minimal impact on sleep, since the lux they generate drops off well before six feet.
Long-term testing notes
In 2020, after most of the child-friendly lights we tested were discontinued, we re-tested with four new options: the Vava, Goline, Lumipets and Skip Hop.
We initially published this post in March of 2016, and since then we have continued to use both the Maxxima night lights. They continue to work as well as they did the day we first tested them. They have caused no hassles of any kind and have required zero maintenance — they simply light the hallway and bathroom.
One of the nice things about switching to an LED night light is that the bulbs should last at least a decade or two. Unlike incandescent bulbs of the past, which might have already needed replacing since our initial tests, our LED night-light bulbs have only utilized a small fraction of their overall lifespan.
The bottom line
Not everyone wants, or needs, a night light — and research shows that overnight darkness is best for your sleep cycle. However, if you do plan to have a night-light in your or your child’s room (and a flashlight just won’t cut it), you are better off if you have red light instead of white or blue light.
Blue light at night – even the blue present in white LED light — seems to influence everything from your sleep cycle to your mood to a possible impact on other bodily systems. You can minimize that effect by using red light, or using a dimmable night light to make overnight exposure as low as possible.
The Maxxima LED Multi-Color Night-Light provides a safe, warm light that is ideal for a night light in your room or the room of your child (on the red setting), as a soft white light for hallways, bathrooms, kitchens, etc.
If you want a dimmable warm-white night light more tailored to your young child, the Vava – VA-CL006 is easy to use, comes with cute customization stickers and lasts for five nights between charges.
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