Night-time confinement, locking patients in their bedrooms overnight, is practiced within high-secure hospitals in the UK. This article provides context, sets out the history and reviews the ethical and pragmatic issues at stake. Thought is given to the future, where we appear to be moving toward a different approach.Declaration of interest E.S. is a consultant forensic psychiatrist at Ashworth Hospital. All his patients are confined at night. He represents the Royal College of Psychiatrists Forensic Faculty at the National Oversight Group, which is the strategic advisory body providing assurance to NHS England regarding the commissioning and provision of high-secure services.