Why Should You Read a Book Before Bedtime?

Do you read before bedtime? If you’ve answered no, maybe it’s not true: you’re reading, but scrolling through news articles on your phone rather than reading a book. Maybe it hasn’t always been this way: maybe when you were a kid before the dawn of smartphones, you’d fall asleep reading your favorite fantasy novels about riding dragons to faraway lands. 

In case you don’t remember, reading a book before bedtime can help you doze off. But why is pulling out a book right before bed a good idea? 

The key lies in the fact that books tend to be an escape from everyday life unless you’re actually reading something that’s stressing you out on its own. If you’re stressed out by tough clients at work, it might be a great idea to read anthologies about businesses being screwed over by the wrong clients. But if you’re reading happy fictional romcoms, that’s a different story. 

Even if the content doesn’t elicit laughter, anything that provides an escape makes a difference. Studies have shown that a primary motive in reading was escaping to another world, temporarily freeing your mind from the tribulations of daily life. It’s easy to see why escaping from the world is a serious destresser and why stress makes it harder to sleep. So choose your reading material wisely — pick a story that pulls you into its world so you can be free of yours.

The story might be fictional, but the characters should be relatable. The more relatable the characters are, the more you can empathize with them, using your emotional bandwidth to focus on their feelings rather than yours. 

Reading a book also takes away the time you’d otherwise scroll through your phone or watch TV. Plenty of studies have shown that screens before bedtime can make it harder to fall asleep and afterward, diminish the quality of that delayed sleep. If the content playing on those screens was especially thrilling or stressful, it’s even worse. So put away the phone, Netflix, and pick up a book relating to what you were going to watch instead. A paper book doesn’t emit that melatonin-suppressing light, just words. 

And what happens after you wake up?

The benefits of last night’s reading continue. A 2021 study showed that reading a book helped to promote better sleep. You already know that means waking up from a good night’s sleep means a more well-rested, more focused, happier day. 

So what should you read? As previously stated, find something that won’t get your heart rate up. The goal is to find something relaxing but not boring. Material that’ll have you escaping from reality without scaring you with its novelty.