The Benefits of Reading Before Bed: 6 Reasons Why You Should Pick Up Your Book Before Bed

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 11, 2021
4 min read

Getting adequate sleep is a must for all of us. Yet, the Sleep Foundation discovered that 35% of Americans sleep fewer than seven hours a night, and 50% of Americans feel sleepy three to seven days a week. One of the critical ways to fall asleep and stay asleep is to read books before bed. Here are some reasons why. 

The link between poor sleep and looking at screens could not be more apparent. Screens do not only include televisions and laptops; your iPad, phone, and e-reader all use screens. Looking at screens for up to 1.5 hours before bed reduces the natural surge of melatonin that your body produces. Additionally, devices with screens can often be stimulating, which interferes with your general relaxation levels and can delay you from trying to fall asleep. 

On the other hand, regular old-fashioned books can be a much-needed escape from the haunting light of technology. Simply looking at something that is not emitting bright lights lets your body naturally release tension and relax into sleep.

Not only does reading give you a break from looking at a screen, but the actual activity of doing it has been found to reduce stress up to 68%. In addition, it has been found to be even more effective than other de-stressors like drinking tea or listening to music. Often, people cite how reading's ability to transport you to a life that is not your own is a significant reason for its relaxing properties.

Of course, if you are explicitly trying to relax and de-stress before bed, pick a relaxing book. At least, choose one that won’t make you feel more stressed. Novels about topics you love, wellness books, or maybe even something where you learn about a hobby could be great ideas for books to read before bed.

Reading is an activity that works your brain without active physical stimulation, because you can read while lying down. It slowly relaxes your body and mind into falling asleep. It allows you to leave the present of your reality and engage in something else. 

This improves your sleep quality because it relaxes you into sleep rather than artificially trying to insert yourself into a restful state. This often makes you feel more well-rested when you wake up. 

Additionally, most people have trouble going to sleep due to stress and anxiety. Physiologically, you become stimulated by the hormones that are released when you begin to feel that pressure and stress. Therefore, you are more likely to not fall asleep or wake up if they are present. Reading helps you break this cycle within yourself as it can take you out of your own experience. 

We all have neurons called mirror neurons. These neurons are fired both when we see someone doing something, or when we do something ourselves. This proves the neuroscientific existence of empathy. 

One study suggests a correlation between these neurons and reading. This finding perhaps suggests reading as a way to feel more empathy. 

Another study also found some ground to scientifically prove that readers actually put themselves into the protagonists’ bodies in the books they read. Moreover, the study showed just how deep this connection could be; there was even some correlation between reading and altering of the parts of the brain that deal with sensory feelings. 

A 2013 study on the effects of reading on the brain found that reading improved the brain’s “connectivity,” or the brain’s ability to understand stories, and critically think about them was a significant short-term benefit of reading. 

More studies need to be conducted on the long-term effects of reading on your brain connectivity to say whether or not they empirically exist. However, it cannot be denied that reading as a hobby exposes you to new ways of thinking, lets you view new perspectives, and challenges you to understand concepts you would otherwise not encounter. In general, this forces you to use creativity and mental agility.

The average recommendation is that adults read at least twenty minutes a night in order to garner the benefits of reading. However, comparatively speaking, that is a concise amount of time to relax, and you do not need to do much. 

As odd as it may sound, reading is a better time investment than most other forms of relaxing your body and mind. There is no special training, equipment, or even preparation you need to do. Just keep a book near your bed.