Reading a Book Before Bedtime – 8 Common Benefits for Your Health and Sleep

Did you know that Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, learned how to build rockets by reading books? And he’s not the only CEO that makes reading a regular habit. Warren Buffet admits to spending up to five or six hours per day with his nose in a book. On average, CEOs read 60 books per year.

CEOs are some of the busiest people on the planet, but they still find the time to crack open a book. While some admit to listening to audiobooks, many find that reading before their bedtime is one of the best times to wind down while also allowing them to gain new knowledge and information.

It could also help you fall asleep faster. So, why not give it a try? You’ve got a decent chance of getting a better night of sleep, and you might learn something in the process, too!

Benefits of Reading Before You Sleep

Reduces Stress

Stress tends to build up throughout the day. When it’s time for bed, your mind might be racing, and you’re likely contemplating tomorrow’s to-do list while keeping track of everything that could be possibly go wrong.

By immersing yourself in a good book, you can take your mind off your current situation. One study found that just six minutes of reading reduced stress by up to 68%. The content of the book isn’t important, either. It could be fact, fiction or pure trash. As long as it’s interesting to you, that’s all that matters.

Boosts Brain Power

Reading allows you to take in new information, which is bound to make you smarter. Warren Buffet refers to the knowledge he’s gained from books as compound interest. The more you learn, the smarter you become.

You don’t have to read a bunch of non-fiction to get the benefit. Even mindless fiction and fantasy can work to expand your vocabulary and exercise your brain.

Improves Creativity

Books broaden your mind. They take you to new worlds, teach you information, and introduce you to new people. You could gain different perspectives about the world or figure out ways to solve a problem based on what you find in a book.

artsy photo of books

Better Sleep

Have you ever found yourself dozing off as you’re reading?  It’s a perfectly normal response to being still and not exposing yourself to the blue LED light (assuming you’re reading a paper book). If you’ve chosen to read something particularly boring, it’s likely to put you to sleep even faster.

Still feeling doubtful? Think back to childhood or consider the behavior of your kids (if you have them). Bedtime stories are a nightly ritual, and many toddler and young children will tell you that they need to hear a bedtime story before falling asleep. There’s no reason that this ritual can’t continue into adulthood.

Better Concentration

A lot of us scroll through emails or social media before bed. Instead of being immersed in a story or a chapter about a topic that interests us, we get pictures or snippets of information. And then we move on to the next message or status.

Enjoying a book means being focused on a single plot or topic for several hours. As a result, we become better at concentrating, and we may find that we improve our attention spans in the rest of our daily activities.

More Empathy

We tend to go through our day focused on ourselves. By engaging with a story, we put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and consider their problems and perspectives. Who knows? By following that person’s story for a while, it could even change the way you view your own life.

Experience Peace and Serenity

Books are quiet and peaceful while television shows and movies can be violent, dramatic, and loud. Picture yourself curling up into bed with a steaming cup of herbal tea and a thick book. Sounds divine, doesn’t it?

Relaxing

As you distract yourself from the immediate problems of the day, you can’t help but relax. While you’re reading, you’ll ideally be in a comfortable, stationary position. The time for moving from place to place is done for the next seven to nine hours, and you can take this time for yourself.

As you become engrossed in your book, your troubles will fade off into the distance. Worry about them tomorrow, if you must.

little girl is reading on the sofa

Best Books to Read at Bedtime

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:

Business: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Self Help: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo

Health: Chris Beat Cancer by Chris Wark

Classic Fiction: Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Contemporary Fiction: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

Suspenseful Fiction: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

Lighthearted Fiction: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it bad for your eyes?

Not necessarily, 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 propping yourself up on a wedge pillow so that you don’t put any unnecessary strain on your body. Bend your knees or put a pillow under them to keep your legs comfortable.

Can it 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, 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.

How long should adults read?

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 twenty minutes are over, then consider reducing the time to ten to fifteen 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.

Is it 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, it 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 pillow to keep yourself propped up. If that’s not comfortable or you don’t have a wedge pillow, 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.
  • 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.

Is it good for insomnia sufferers?

Yes, it can be helpful in accelerating the amount of time it takes to fall asleep. Because reading a book before bed is a known stress reducer, it can also help you fall asleep faster. Further, by distracting your brain with new information or someone else’s story, it can take your mind off of your own troubles.

Conclusion


Reading a book before bed can be a helpful aid for falling asleep. Avoid e-readers in the bedroom because the blue LED lights disrupt melatonin production and 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.

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Author: Jill Thompson

I've been self-employed for almost four years and I would not change it for anything! I believe that anyone can achieve their goals with the right attitude and determination.

I'm an avid traveler (25+ countries and counting) that loves to meet new people doing amazing things.

When I'm not researching for the Sleep Advisor, you can find me reading, running, traveling, golfing, or meditating.

I wish you the very best on your journey!

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