Can Reading Really Help You Sleep?

+ Plus Our Sleep Oriented Book Recommendations

While numerous types of sleep aids exist, one of the oldest and most well-loved ones in the book is reading. With sleep becoming the new status symbol, people are more desperate than ever to get good quality sleep and while a better mattress, new sheets, a fluffier pillow and other sleep accessories can all improve sleep, a solid nightly routine, including a good book, is another possible solution. But why? What is it about reading that makes us so sleepy?

Surprisingly, there isn’t too much concrete evidence that proves the act of reading causes people to fall asleep. It’s more that reading is an entertaining way to help us accomplish other things that do help us sleep. Here are just a few benefits of reading before bed:

Reading Forces Us To Put Technology Away

Technology usage is a large part of why people have issues sleeping; engaging with a phone or computer late into the night doesn’t allow our brains to shut off. In a 2014 study, it was proven that reading a paper book is much better for readers than reading from an e-reader before bed. Individuals in the study who read by the lurid blue screen of an iPad had a harder time falling asleep and the technology was also proven to delay the release of melatonin. Plus, when looking at a phone or other device, it’s possible to receive an email or stressful text that can wind the mind back up, making it harder to relax.

 Reading Can Become Part Of A Sleep Routine

Developing a consistent sleep routine helps train the body to go to sleep at the appropriate time. We’ve all heard of our circadian rhythm and it’s useful to maintain that rhythm so we are able to wake up and get sleepy at the same times each day. Doing the same things before bed, like taking a shower, taking out contacts, brushing teeth and settling into bed with a book, can all help reinforce and maintain a daily rhythm by giving the body familiar cues that it’s time to get sleepy.

 Reading Forces Us To Focus On Something Besides Trying To Sleep

 Reading a book before bed gets us to slow down and focus on something besides getting sleepy. It helps quiet the mind by giving it another story to engage with (apart from a to-do list, or the potential challenges of the next day). Reading is also a work-out for the brain. According to Ken Pugh, PhD, president and director of research at a lab dedicated to the science of language, "parts of the brain that have evolved for other functions—such as vision, language, and associative learning—connect in a specific neural circuit for reading, which is very challenging." This challenge can mentally wear an individual out making it easier to feel tired.

 Reading IS Scientifically Proven To Relieve Stress

According to the research of cognitive neuroscientist, Dr. David Lewis, nothing relieves stress quite like getting lost in a great book.  He says, “It really doesn't matter what book you read, by losing yourself in a thoroughly engrossing book you can escape from the worries and stresses of the everyday world and spend a while exploring the domain of the author's imagination.”

 Don’t pick too wild of a book before bed though, if you are anything like us, you might end up losing sleep if you get too sucked into a scintillating story. Here are a few fiction books we recommend (some of which really do revolve around sleep):

Not much of a reader? That’s ok too. Check out the Bob Ross sleep meditation app AND the wildly popular podcast, Sleep With Me, where the host crafts and reads extremely boring stories to help you sleep.

Read more here, here, here, here and here.

This article originally appeared in Sleep Retailer eNews on August 23, 2018

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