We give our kid's room smarter lights so the whole family gets more sleep

Smart lighting in and around a kid's bedroom is a great way to help manage sleep and enable solo trips to the bathroom. Here's how we brought such a system to life at the CNET Smart Home.

Chris Monroe/CNET

If you're the parent of young kids you certainly appreciate the value of a good night's sleep. You also know that one of the biggest causes for night time disruption is children getting up at odd hours to use the bathroom, waking you in the process. We believe a little connected tech, specifically smart light bulbs and fixtures, could go a long way to help alleviate this pain. Conceivably such a lighting system would react to the needs of restless kids, automatically illuminating a path to the potty so hopefully they won't have to come knocking for mommy or daddy.

Of course, the number of triggers for a child not sleeping through the night can seem potentially infinite. Our motivation here was to tackle a primary reason why both parents and kiddos miss out on blissful shut-eye. We also wanted to test just how simple, or difficult, setting up such a system would be. That's why we decided to equip our model kid's bedroom at the CNET Smart Home with a combination of high tech lights and sensors. Here's what we did and what we learned.

A a new bulb in this fixture gives it smart abilities.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Old lights be gone

The first step in our project was to remove all of the ordinary light bulbs from the lamps and fixtures present in our Smart Home Kid's room. Luckily there wasn't much to deal with within the bedroom, just two desk lamps placed on a dresser and a ceiling-mounted chandelier -- each of which only required one standard A19 type bulb. The same goes for an additional reading lamp clipped to a small bookshelf located in the room's corner.

Once these basic bulbs were out of the picture, four in all, I added two Philips Hue smart bulbs to each of the desk lamps. I repeated the process for both the ceiling fixture and the reading lamp, placing a Hue bulb in their respective sockets.

I also wanted to control illumination around the bedroom door as well as the area leading up to the hallway bathroom. Unfortunately these light sources were harder to handle. Laid out in an array of four recessed sockets, the fixtures live on the ceiling forcing me to enlist the help of a ladder to reach them. Another annoyance is that they're fitted for less common BR30 type flood light bulbs and not the ubiquitous A19 style variety.

A smart, color-changing bulb over the toilet makes it more inviting.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Even so I managed to equip all four sockets with connected BR30 LED bulbs from Philips Hue (2), Sylvania (1), and Lifx (1). I also added a second Lifx smart BR30 LED bulb to a similar socket on the ceiling directly above toilet in the hallway bathroom. Lastly, I set a Philips Hue Go light on the dresser in the kids room to use as a soothing night light.

All your lights in one app.

Chris Monroe/CNET

One app for total control

Paired with its companion hub which we previously installed in the house (part of the Philips' Hue starter kit), I now had the power to command six of nine lights right from my Android and iOS smartphones (Nexus 6, iPhone 6S) through the Philips Hue App.

That's not good enough.

I wanted to bring these bulbs into a much wider world of connected products, and for that I needed to link them to a solution up to the task.

So I selected the SmartThings platform and companion application since it's compatible with a large array of gadgets and also happens to be our current smart some hub of choice. Under SmartThings I was able to marshal all of the bulbs I installed under one central mobile application.

Trigger lighting actions and routines when the door opens.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Automatic lights for better sleep

This door sensor knows when the kid's room door is open or closed.

Chris Monroe/CNET

The final hardware piece of the puzzle was a SmartThings door sensor. Attached to the inside of the door frame in the kids room, the gadget detects whether the door is open or closed in real time. Now I was ready and able to create some really useful automatic actions.

For instance, I used SmartThings to set up a rule to turn on the bedroom night light (in a cool shade of blue) the moment it senses the door opening after bedtime. Additionally the hallway lights will also activate and glow a soft 30 percent brightness as part of this routine. And to make sure a potty-bound tot can see properly, the bathroom light kicks on as well.

I programmed all these lights to shut off after 20 minutes to avoid wasting electricity. Likewise the bulbs in the hallway will turn off when the door closes at night. I also dictated that bedtime begin at precisely 8:30 p.m. (wishful thinking perhaps), to be signaled by the bedroom lights cutting out and the night light switching on.

To be clear we're just scratching the surface. I could just as easily have the all the lights pump up to full brightness to hopefully prep children for a fast morning wake up. Conversely I envision other neat tricks like using a gradual brightening paired with natural color temperatures to simulate sunlight on lazy weekends.

What's next for the Smart Home kids room?

Plenty. This is merely the first chapter in our ongoing plans to add intelligent and connected devices and systems to our model kids bedroom. Other topics on the drawing board include ways to equip the location with enhanced security as well as better methods to control the room's comfort and climate. Be sure to check back soon as we switch more capabilities on at the CNET Smart Home.

Turn any bedroom light into a night light.

Chris Monroe/CNET
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