Saturday, December 4, 2021


No: Your RV’s outdoor LEDs are not cool, and they’re affecting your quality of sleep!

We’ve all seen them – more and more RVs being manufactured are coming with ever-brighter exterior lights and, according to some studies, this is a problem. In fact, based on the results of some studies, it’s actually a rather significant issue. 

There were several studies I looked at for this article, but my own empirical data is that I sleep better when it’s dark. It’s one of the reasons I like boondocking and camping in forests and other places where there isn’t a lot of light. 

All about melatonin

One study summed it up as follows:

“Darkness is essential to sleep. The absence of light sends a critical signal to the body that it is time to rest. Light exposure at the wrong times alters the body’s internal ‘sleep clock’ – the biological mechanism that regulates sleep-wake cycles – in ways that interfere with both the quantity and quality of sleep. Melatonin, a hormone produced in the brain’s pineal gland, is often known as the ‘sleep hormone’ or the ‘darkness hormone.’

“Melatonin influences sleep by sending a signal to the brain that it is time for rest. This signal helps initiate the body’s physiological preparations for sleep – muscles begin to relax, feelings of drowsiness increase, body temperature drops. Melatonin levels naturally rise during the early evening as darkness falls and continue to climb throughout most of the night, before peaking at approximately 3 a.m. Levels of melatonin then fall during the early morning and remain low during much of the day. Evening light exposure inhibits the naturally timed rise of melatonin, which delays the onset of the body’s transition to sleep and sleep itself.”

You can find countless articles and studies to this effect. One such article appeared in the Washington Post, where they cited that people don’t necessarily need more sleep, they just need more darkness. 

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health also cited that light absolutely affects one’s circadian clock in this article, which was shared by the CDC. 

So what are the issues with lights?

I am seeing an ever-increasing number of RVs with fairly bright lights on them. That’s terrific until the point where you figure your fellow RVers are trying to sleep and those lights are not helping. 

Furthermore, it seems there’s a new trend of laying out LED strips under RVs. Oftentimes these colorful lights might look cool, but they definitely brighten up a site and shed pretty significant amounts of light into the adjacent sites. What inspired me to write this was a very bright strip of LEDs under a motorhome in my neighboring campsite that were left on all night. 

But plenty of travel trailers now are coming with lights that were originally designed to assist with hitching in the dark. I’ve seen many owners leave these on all night. 

The practice seems to be ever more common and it’s part of the reason some campers are bemoaning all the newbies out there. It seems the experienced campers just don’t do this, or aren’t as likely to. 

Campgrounds: It’s you, too

I can’t just blame my fellow campers. Some campgrounds, too, are bringing on the light. In fact, one of my favorite campgrounds has those high-pressure sodium lights all over the place. At one group campout I attended someone actually managed to find the source of power for the sodium light over their RV and, for some reason, it never worked the entire rest of the time they were camped there. 

See. It’s not just me. 

While a certain amount of light is probably a good idea, lights in campgrounds can be situated so that they don’t shine on or hover over RVs. In fact, the campground I’m staying at as I write this has fixtures that aim the light down and utilizes bulbs in those fixtures that aren’t very bright. 

It’s actually pretty ideal as we are near a Dark Sky area. The light from the campground is not disturbing but still provides guidance. Well, until someone decides to lay out a strip of blue lights under their motorhome and leaves them on all night long…

And then I’m the d-bag for asking them to shut them off after dealing with it for a couple of days. 

This campground went the opposite extreme with absolutely no lighting at night. It was fine, but the wolves howling gave it a different feel.

What can you do?

The body needs time to prepare for sleep. A sleep routine that includes a gradually darkening environment can help. Dim the lights a full hour before bedtime to encourage your body to begin its physiological progression toward sleep. 

If you’re fortunate enough to have dimmable lights inside your RV, perhaps dim the lights a bit an hour before you go to bed. 

Avoid screen time the hour before bed: Turn off the television, power down computers and tablets, and put your phone away for the night. The light from digital devices contains high concentrations of blue light, a wavelength of light that research has shown is especially detrimental to sleep.

Many RVs have thin folding shades like the ones in my own RV that do little to block incoming light. Perhaps consider replacing these with blackout shades (here are a bunch of options for RV blackout shades). 

If you’re in a pinch, you can take a black contractor’s garbage bag and cut it to the shape of your windows. Then simply wet the windows with water and the garbage bag will actually adhere to the window. When you’re ready to remove it, it’ll come right off. 

An eye mask worn at night can help deepen darkness and protect against intrusive light. Choose a mask that is soft, comfortable, and flexible. Wearing an eye mask can take a little getting used to, but it is a highly effective tool for limiting your light exposure at night.

Being aware of light’s effects on the body will lead you to pay more attention to the light that surrounds you, both day and night. Taking a little time to ensure a dark sleeping environment is one easy and important way to protect and improve your nightly rest.



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Brian Burry
7 hours ago

Sure glad this country is still free and you can have lights or not!

12 days ago

We are snowbirds and I like the lights around RVs. We stay in an RV park (825 sites) on the Colorado River in AZ for 5 months. It’s dark early in the winter and the lights on RVs are festive. We have coyotes, donkeys and other animals that roam our park. I like to have some visibility when out at night. The blinds in our RV can make it very dark so we have nitelights for the nightime visits to the can.

1 month ago

Over the decades we’ve tried all the usual pest prevention remedies to keep pests (rodents) out of vehicles and RVs. The only thing that has worked is running a LED rope light around the base of our 5th wheel and then our motorhome. For over 4 years rodent free. Don’t need to use bright rope, we use a dark blue rope light.

At home the only thing that kept rodents out of our vehicles were lights on a photocell and left it in the engine compartment. Prior to using the light it was a constant struggle with frequent incursions.

Sealed bottoms are not going to keep rodents out. Even if not chewed through to allow access, there are jacks which aren’t sealed, areas around where the wheels are mounted, there are holes in the frame where slide rams are mounted.

I picked up the idea using light from a 4×4 outdoor adventure company close to our home. Vehicles are parked in the desert. All vehicles have lights. Since using lights there have been no rodent problems.

1 month ago

Lights don’t bother us as bad as noise. I use lights outside but if I can see that our neighbors may be close enough for them to be bothered by them, I turn them off at bedtime..

Frederick J Schilling
1 month ago

I want to comment about LED Lights under a Motorcoach on the ground. I have run into a problem at our Florida RV center that we stay at during,Winter. The RV CENTER has over 350 full hookup sites. It has a 18 hole Golf Course & 4 swimming pools. Very clean. It is adjacent to nearby heavy vegetation. Some small animals wander the sites at night. Without lights under the Coach they chew through electric wiring & air brake lines that costs big $$ to fix. Any comments to that about lights under a RV??

Grant Johnson
4 days ago
Reply to  Tony Barthel

Our is the plastic material that is like cardboard. It is partially sealed, but with wires and pipes, very hard to completely seal the under area of a trailer.

Mike Sherman
1 month ago

Our new 42′ 5th wheel came with a 40′ string of LED lights. So, I bought a small battery-operated light with a dimmer for a porch light. I know my neighbors appreciated keeping the aircraft landing lights at a minimum. The manufacturer needs to add the conventional small orange porch light. Campgrounds should have timers for their street lights, automatically shutting down at 10:00 p.m.

1 month ago

Saw a Class A with 2 light show projectors aimed at both sides of the rig. Of course there was plenty of spill over for everyone else to enjoy. Ran all night. What a jerk.

1 month ago

Sleep masks can work, but I have been using a dark hand towel draped over my eyes for years. Started with a wash cloth, but it fell off too easily. The wife wants to stay up half the night reading in bed with her light on, no problem. The towel even works with a CPAP. A bonus is that on really cold nights, if you cover your whole head, it keeps you warmer. Otherwise fold it or whatever to just cover you eye area.

1 month ago

This is such a pet peeve of mine. There have been so many times that my trip was impacted by other camper’s lights. The worst was when I was camping at Furnace Creek in Death Valley a few years ago. The campsites are far apart there. However, a guy across the street and 3 campsites down decided to leave his bright LED awning lights on plus he ran those stupid rope lights all underneath his 5th wheel. Even though we were a ways away, there was so much light in our trailer it was like the sun was up. The worst part is there was no moon the first few nights we were there and myself and some other campers were looking forward to trying some astrophotography as the night sky was amazing. Instead of being comfy and photographing from our campsites, we had to go drive somewhere. One of the other campers asked the guy to shut his lights off and he said “No, he wanted to keep the snakes away.” Finally, the other camper got the ranger on him and he turned them off.

Samuel Smith
1 month ago

The blue light are the worst! All light should be turned off at quiet time or dimmed.

Bob M
1 month ago

I can’t stand the blue light Jayco puts in the travel trailer bathroom ceiling for a night light. I never turn on any blue lights. I agree the interior LED lights are to bright. Lived in the Poconos in a wooded recreational community. When security would tell home owners to turn off all the exterior lights around their house at night. The guys would say their city wife’s from New York and New Jersey we’re afraid of the dark.

Jeff Craig
1 month ago

I’ve been putting out Philipps LED ‘rope lights’ for about a decade when we stay someplace for more than five days. Three strands of white lights, and the rest are multi-color. They are on a timer in the storage bay and turn off from about 2330 until around an hour before sunrise – depending on the time of year. My rope lights are about 1/3rd (or less) as bright as the lights built into the awnings of new rigs, but I try to be respectful. I upgraded the ‘patio light’ in my kitchen slide to a motion sensing LED to keep down the annoyance. It’d be nice if manufacturers would integrate this technology into the Awning LEDs, or maybe a ‘HUE’ type app so you can control it via bluetooth.

1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig

I guess I don’t understand why you need the lights on at all? Other campers want to see the stars, not their neighbor’s led lights.

Jose Ortiz
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony

The lights under the rig keeps mice, rats, and other animals from coming into your rig at night. It might also save your wires from the ones that like to chew on things.

Lee Ensminger
1 month ago
Reply to  Jose Ortiz

No, it doesn’t. It’s just your justification for using those annoying lights. I’ve been RVing for 36 years in TTs, Class C and A gas, and Class A diesel. No outdoor or under coach lights, and never had anything chewed up.

1 month ago
Reply to  Jose Ortiz

I’m not the Tony you replied to but lights don’t keep rodents away, if it did why do people see rodents scurrying around in a lit room? Rodents don’t want to be around people very much so if trying to keep them away the best thing for you to do is sit outside at night and sleep during the day.

John Baumgartner
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff Craig

I’m having trouble figuring out why you think 2 330 is an appropriate time to turn your obnoxious lights off. What about those of us who may be parked near your rig and are attempting to enjoy the dark sky between sunset and 2330.

Also what is magical about 2330? Not everyone stays up that late.

1 month ago

Imagine how we feel as the tent campers. Respectfully hope our neighbors will dim lights by 10 and off by midnight. Never once had need to run lights all night for rodents or bears. We follow the rules and lock supplies away. The stars and night sounds are breathtaking and worth it.

Samuel Smith
1 month ago
Reply to  KHP


Rebecca Cardenas
1 month ago

I replaced all the cheesy RV blinds with cellular day/night blinds. Beside excellent insulation, these blinds block out all outside light. It’s DARK inside my rig at night. Can’t see your hand in front of your face, lol. Now if I could stop all the driving in & out in the middle of the night. 😐

1 month ago

I’m opposed to all the lights as when camping outside the cities I enjoy Dark Sky and looking at the stars and Milky Way.
Balsam Fir and Peppermint are as effective against mice as are lights.

Lorraine A Gehring
1 month ago

People put those rope lights under their rigs to keep rodents out. That’s why you see them at HipCamp — non-paved places. Even more in places pack rats frequent. Lights in your engine, lights under your rig.

Why can’t you wear something over your eyes? Why not install room-darkening curtains? Why must everyone else change for you?

Honestly, the amount of kvetching on this site turns readers off.

Michael Galvin, PhD
1 month ago

Some have the lights because of rodents; others think they look nice. I hate ’em. Many of us prefer dark at night. Why have cutesie lights and make everyone else change and wear something over eyes or install curtains?

Samuel Smith
1 month ago


Lee Ensminger
1 month ago

Honestly, your definition of “kvetching” is “anyone who doesn’t agree with you.” Why should people who have been camping in the dark for 30-40 years [1986 for me] have to change for YOU?!?

1 month ago

It has been shown that lights don’t work for that. The only thing running bright lights all night keeps away is the people who would talk to you if you weren’t such a jerk. I guess you also think that the people who have some sporting event on their outside tv going full blast and cheering till late at night / early morning is also good, and the rest of us just need to get ear plugs. Very bright lights and loud tv’s or parties after quiet times are nothing but inconsiderate to your fellow campers. But some don’t seem to care for anyone but themselves.

Joe .
1 month ago
Reply to  Tony

It’s more like a siren call for others of a like mind – like I’m ready to tailgate.

Joe .
1 month ago

I believe those lights would help you see the rodents…. But once it’s nice and quiet and you are asleep trust me they could care less about a little light especially under the protective cover of an RV.

Double so in an RV park full of light to begin with. They are quite used to it. Think of a super bright moonlight night.

Unless you are talking some retina burning, brighter than looking at the sun, industrial grow lights. I suspect if bright enough to induce pain that might help.

I would suggest sealing any holes in your RV and keeping area clean of any possible food instead.

1 month ago

I have a string of little Christmas lights from my door to the back wheel set on a timer. Why? Because my dog needs to go out at night. The porch light is too bright. The string of lights allows enough light so I don’t fall on the steps. Otherwise they are for safety.

Joe .
1 month ago
Reply to  rvgrandma

If you are respectful and have one light not much brighter than fifteen-twenty or so candles I don’t think you are what anyone here is talking about.

Doesn’t take much for light to leave your campsite and be noticed by others so everyone really needs to be aware of the issue (great article here) and then make judgment calls on the trade off by taking into account your neighbors. Use amber not blue. Use dim not bright. Diffused light facing down, not a beam in my face when I walk by. Use a timer so they are off during sleeping time but can be back on in AM for you to let dog out. Etc.

David Wilson
1 month ago

We stayed at a farm in Kansas through Hip Camp. It was fabulous. The nearest RV was 1/4 mile away. But come dark, that thing was lit up like Times Square shining across the farmer’s field. I just could not understand why those folks would bother to come to a remote and beautiful spot to camp and then block our view of the stars as well as their own.

Tommy Molnar
1 month ago

The excuse I hear a lot from under RV string light uses is that it keeps vermin away. I’m not sure I believe that. I complained on another RV site where I could upload a picture of my neighbor’s trailer with LEDs all over it – and I was BOMBED with comments on how I should just move if I didn’t like it. I was told that there might be all manner of reasons FOR leaving a ton of outside lights on. I should cool up to the new normal camping experience.
And this is why we boondock almost all the time.

The Lazy Q
1 month ago

Everyone trying to keep up with the joneses…