Reading is an eternally popular pastime, with many ways to access your favorite stories. Between books, eBooks, and audiobooks, there’s something for everybody, and reading helps you unwind at night.
Most of us spend our days attached to screens, whether a computer at work, a smartphone, or a tablet at home. Reading a book offers respite from the blue light emitted by screens, which disrupts our sleep.
For this reason, eReaders are best avoided at night as they emit blue light. Traditional paperbacks and hardbacks are ideal, as most sleep experts recommend avoiding screens for an hour before bed.
Reading is a great way to unwind and relax at the end of the day. A good book involves leaving your troubles behind and taking a trip into a different headspace.
If you have poor eyesight or find reading stressful, you can listen to an audiobook instead.
Is it Good to Read Books Before Bed?
As we all grow more aware of the importance of sleep and how to give ourselves the best chance of gaining eight full hours of rest, the concept of sleep hygiene has gained prominence.
That involves establishing a set routine and spending around an hour winding down before bed, ideally away from screens. Reading a book in bed is a great way to achieve this, as reading at night allows your brain and body to relax and unwind before sleep.
If you read at night, you can take yourself out of the reality of your day, potentially soothing anxiety and stress. Reading a book effectively separates your waking day and all its responsibilities from the peace and calm of bedtime.
Is Reading in Bed Bad for Sleep?
You need to find reading relaxing and enjoyable to help your sleep. Forcing yourself to read when you don’t enjoy doing so will create unnecessary stress at the worst possible time.
Be careful about what you read in bed. If you have a nervous disposition and a vivid imagination, spooky ghost stories or horror literature is best avoided lest nightmares plague you.
The only other instance that reading in bed is best avoided is if you struggle with regular insomnia. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t read before bed, but establishing a sleep hygiene routine is more important than ever.
In these instances, do your reading in another part of the house. Reserve your time in bed and the bedroom exclusively for sleep and intimacy. This will help build a psychological barrier against insomnia.
Reading vs. TV Before Bed
If you’re not much of a reader, you may wonder, “why is reading so much better for me than watching TV?”
While both activities are passive and relaxing, watching TV opens the door to more significant distractions. When was the last time you watched a show or movie from start to finish without checking your phone at least once?
Smartphones, especially social media apps, are engineered to steal our attention. As a result, a quick harmless scroll can delay your sleep for hours as you grow increasingly engaged in what you see, whether due to happiness, anger, or anything else.
Sleep experts recommend avoiding screens for around an hour before bed, including TV. The images on a screen stem from electromagnetic radiation, which our eyes interpret as colors, and this is why screens are referred to as emitting “blue light.”
The Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism explains how sensitive we are to blue light, especially in melatonin production. Essentially, looking at a screen blocks the release of melatonin – the hormone that makes us sleepy.
The longer and later we watch TV at night, the harder it becomes for our brains to relax and fall asleep. Reading a book is easier for the eyes and brain to relax and unwind, encouraging a natural and restful slumber.
Should I Read Paper Books or eBooks Before bed?
The march of technology in the 21st Century means that some people consider paperback or hardback books old-fashioned. Most homes now have at least one eReader, such as a Kindle or a Nook. Alternatively, apps are available to turn smartphones and tablets into eReaders.
How does reading before bed affect your sleep using an eBook or tablet? Unfortunately, you’ll fall victim to all the same problems as watching TV before bed, especially if using a tablet or phone.
eBooks are a little gentler on the eyes. However, as per Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, eReaders still emit blue light that delays sleep and reduces alertness in the morning.
Now, there are some caveats to this claim. This study was published in 2015, and the technology has advanced since then. Newer models of eReader, most notably Amazon’s Kindle Oasis, emit minimal light. It’s impossible to have a screen with no blue light, though.
If you can use an eReader without disturbing your sleep, do so. There’s no denying they’re convenient at night because you won’t need to switch on a lamp, thus avoiding disturbing anybody who shares your bed, and eBooks are easier to store than paperbacks.
If eBooks prevent you from sleeping, switch back to conventional printed matter. Don’t waste money on glasses or lenses that claim to block blue light. Ophthalmic and Physiological Optics explains how there is no evidence that these products work.
Are Audiobooks OK Before Bed?
Bring audiobooks into your sleep hygiene routine if you don’t enjoy reading but still like to be entertained without screens before bed. Listening to an audiobook is like hearing a story while you slowly start to doze off.
The easiest way to enjoy audiobooks is through smartphone or tablet apps. Hook these up to wireless speakers, and leave the device on the other side of the room. This way, when you’re ready for sleep, you can turn off the speaker and avoid interaction with a screen.
How to be Comfortable Reading Before Bed
If you’re going to make a habit of reading before bed, you need to ensure that you’re suitably comfortable. Reading time must be a pleasure, not a chore. Several elements will go into this:
|Location:||Choose the best room for your pre-bedtime reading. If you’re prone to insomnia, consider reading in another room and leaving the bed exclusively for sleep.|
|Posture:||Reading will only be relaxing if you maintain an appropriate posture. Use a reading pillow to cradle your neck and upper shoulders, pad out your spin, and rest the book on your stomach to save holding it up.|
|Eyesight:||Never strain your eyes while reading, especially before bed. Don’t be shy about picking up a pair if you need reading glasses. You could even consider prism glasses equipped with a periscope over each lens.|
|Lighting:||Find the right balance of light for reading before bed. This should be dim enough to relax, easing yourself out of the bright, glaring overhead lights of activity, but not so dark that you strain your eyes.|
And, of course, the most crucial component is a good book that you actively enjoy reading. Becoming engrossed in a story means you’ll be less likely to succumb to the temptation of switching on the TV or playing with your smartphone.
What Are The Best Books To Read Before Bed?
Favorite books are entirely personal, but some books are better than others to read before bed. Here are some suggestions to factor into your selection that may help you sleep better at night:
- Short story anthologies can offer the opportunity to read a little each night and come to a natural stopping point.
- Fairy tales that you remember from childhood may evoke feelings of nostalgia.
- Non-fiction books are less likely to keep you up at night, determined to discover what happens next in the story.
- A light and breezy read that doesn’t make you think too hard, such as a paperback romance from a supermarket spinner rack, will help relax your mind.
- Avoid anything engrossing or addictive. Save the latest thriller from your favorite author for daylight, or you risk staying up too late for “just one more chapter.”
The decision of what to read remains personal. If the book you read calms your body and mind and eases you into a night of quality sleep, there’s no such thing as the wrong book to read before bed.
How Much Reading Before Bed Is Recommended?
While it’s clear that there are advantages to reading before bed, it’s also possible to have too much of a good thing. Be careful about how much reading you do before bed. Sleep deprivation caused to reading late into the night is still damaging in the morning.
One of the advantages of reading before bed is that you’re likelier to actively notice that you’re drowsy. While reading is relaxing, it’s less passive than watching TV or scrolling through the news and social media. Also, your eyes will be less stimulated, so you’ll feel naturally tired.
Try reading for around 20 minutes before heading to bed and see if this eases any insomnia. If not, try a little longer. If you can’t keep your eyes open or re-read the same sentence countless times as you’re too tired to concentrate, get some sleep.
The benefits of reading before bed speak for themselves, especially if you embrace this hobby over a screen-based alternative. Reading before bed is a good way to calm your mind and drift into a natural state of slumber, and it’s a valuable addition to any sleep hygiene routine.