Night-Light Study May Have Been Shortsighted

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Everyone knows there's nothing better than a night-light to banish those monsters that go bump in the night. And so when a study linking the use of night-lights to nearsightedness was published in 1999, guilt-wracked parents were forced to choose between their children's comfort and their own peace of mind. Tonight, parents and children alike can sleep a bit easier: Two studies published in this week's issue of the journal Nature go a long way toward debunking last year's scare; researchers were unable to duplicate the findings reported in the preliminary study. They say the figures may have emerged because the earlier study did not discount the possibility that short-sighted parents might be more likely to use nightlights and that short-sightedness tends to be passed from generation to generation.

"This news should be reassuring to nervous parents," says TIME medical writer Christine Gorman. Pediatricians may not need to be reassured: While some parents took last year's results very much to heart, effectively banishing light from their sleeping children's rooms, doctors had not been particularly impressed with the data. "Some pediatricians have mentioned it to their patients' parents, but there hasn't been an overarching night-light recommendation from the medical establishment," says TIME medical contributor Dr. Ian Smith. "This is something that scientists will discuss with each other, not with parents."