Books are a great way to learn new things and explore interesting stories, but did you know they offer health benefits as well? If you’ve been looking for a way to help you unwind at the end of the day and fall asleep faster, opening up a good book could do the trick. In this article, we’ll cover eight benefits of reading before bed as they pertain to your health and sleep. We’ll also highlight helpful tips on how to read before going to sleep, as well as book recommendations and the types of books you should steer clear of at bedtime.
How to Read Before Bed
To set yourself up for success when reading before going to sleep, grab a physical book to avoid blue light, and set up your space so it is calming to you. You might turn off overhead lights and music and turn on white noise and a lamp. If you want, you can put on your pajamas and do your nighttime routine before opening your book. This way, reading is the last thing you do before you shut your eyes for the night.
Accessories to Help You Read Before Bed
- Reading lights – Reading lights allow you to turn off the overhead lights and create a calm, dark environment, while still being able to see the words on the page.
- Blue light-blocking glasses – If you choose to read on a tablet or e-reader, blue light-blocking glasses are a great way to avoid blue light and ensure your brain knows it is time to sleep.
- Wedge pillows – Wedge pillows are a helpful accessory that reduce neck and eye strain while reading. Just prop your back up against the pillow and you can read without straining your eyes and neck as much.
- Husband pillows – Another pillow that supports your back and helps your posture is the husband pillow, which helps you stay in an upright position while reading and allows you to hold your book right in front of you, instead of lying down in bed with your book above your face. This position also helps reduce eye strain.
What Books to Read Before Bed
These book genres are great to read before going to sleep, and they could also be ideal to pick up if you are having trouble sleeping at night.
- Fairy tale
- Self Help
This is a highly personal choice, and different genres may appeal to you. Here are some of our favorite picks from the Amazon best-seller list to get you started:
- Fiction: Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus
- Fiction: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid
- Romance: Happy Place by Emily Henry
- Educational: Outlive: The Science and Art of Longevity by Peter Attia MD
- Self Help: I Will Teach You to Be Rich: No Guilt. No Excuses. Just a 6-Week Program That Works by Ramit Sethi
- Self Help: Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear
Ideally, pick something that engages your mind and entertains you. While a boring book could put you to sleep faster, you won’t find the experience to be as pleasurable, which will make you less likely to develop a reading habit before your bedtime.
What Not to Read Before Bed
While you might enjoy reading thrillers before bed, these books, along with mysteries and horror fiction, are not the best choice to read if you want to fall asleep easily. Fear can lead to a fight-or-flight response, which boosts adrenaline and creates stress. As already mentioned, stress before bedtime does not lead to good sleep. A less scary, more lighthearted book will be more relaxing at night and will not increase adrenaline. Try to keep your horror and thriller reading to the daytime.
Along with scary books, reading something that will make you upset or worried is not ideal before sleeping. For instance, reading an article about politics or current social events that anger you is not the best idea4. Try to end your day on a peaceful, happy note.
Is reading at night bad for your eyes?
Reading at night is not necessarily bad for your eyes, but it depends on the position you lie in. If you lie flat on your back with the book straight above your face, the position will put a strain on your eyes as well as your neck.
Our recommendation is to prop yourself up on a wedge or husband pillow so that you don’t put any unnecessary strain on your body.
How long should I read before bed?
The recommended time will vary, but a general recommendation is to read long enough to help you feel drowsy without compromising on the amount of sleep you get each night. Try reading for 20 minutes to start. If you find that you’re tired before the 20 minutes are over, then consider reducing the time to 10 to 15 minutes.
However, if you’re still wide awake after 20 minutes, consider extending your session. This may require going to bed earlier to prevent cutting into your beauty sleep.
Can reading before bed help you dream?
There’s no official data on this topic quite yet, but some people theorize that reading before bed can help expand your imagination and creativity, which could lead to more vivid and memorable dreams.
If you’ve noticed a character from a novel you read right before bed pop up in your dream, then you can safely guess that your nighttime reading material influenced that particular vision.
Is reading in bed bad for your back?
If you spend a lot of time reading in a position that puts a strain on your neck or lower body, then yes, reading in bed can be bad for your back. To prevent stiffness and soreness, keep your spine in a neutral position, and avoid poor posture, which compresses the spine.
Consider using a wedge or husband pillow to keep yourself propped up. If that’s not comfortable or you don’t have one of those, then try these tips to ensure you’re not going to wake up feeling like you got run over by a truck:
- Prevent your legs from locking up and losing circulation by placing a pillow underneath your knees or by bending your knees.
- Place a pillow on your lap or leg area so that you have a resting place for your arms. This also allows the book to be at eye level without having to hold it up.
- A pillow propped up against your low back will protect the lumbar region.
- If you’re sitting up or angled in bed, add another pillow behind your neck to prevent it from straining to stay up.
So, is reading before you go to sleep good for you? Reading a book before bed can be a helpful aid for falling asleep, and this practice comes along with other benefits.
However, avoid e-readers in the bedroom because the blue light can prevent the onset of sleep. Also, if you follow the rule that the bedroom should be used for sleep and sex only, consider reading in another room, or at least in a chair in the bedroom as opposed to lying in bed.
- “How blue light affects your eyes, sleep, and health”. UC Davis Health Cultivating Health. Last modified August 3, 2022.
- “The Color of the Light Affects the Circadian Rhythms”. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Last modified April 1, 2020.
- Rizzolo, Denise., Zipp, Genevieve Pinto., Stiskal, Doreen., Simpkins, Susan. “Stress Management Strategies for Students: The Immediate Effects of Yoga, Humor, and Reading on Stress”. Eric. 2009.
- “Reading for Stress Relief”. University of Minnesota. Webpage accessed June 4, 2023.
- Finucane, Elaine., et al. “Does reading a book in bed make a difference to sleep in comparison to not reading a book in bed? The People’s Trial—an online, pragmatic, randomised trial”. National Library of Medicine. December 4, 2021.
- Johnson, Dan R. “Transportation into a story increases empathy, prosocial behavior, and perceptual bias toward fearful expressions”. Science Direct. November 1, 2011.
- Elkins, Kathleen. “Berkshire Hathaway star followed Warren Buffett’s advice: Read 500 pages a day”. CNBC. Last modified March 27, 2018.
- “The Psychology of Fear: Exploring the Science Behind Horror Entertainment”. CSP Global. Webpage accessed June 14, 2023.
Emma is an Editorial Intern for Sleep Advisor. She collaborates with the editor and staff writers to come up with article ideas, create article outlines, and write for the website.