There is nothing quite like climbing into bed and picking up a good book before tucking in. Reading before bed is a common activity for lots of people young and old. But is it helping you sleep? We are going to explore the benefits and potential downfalls of nighttime reading for both adults and children.
Reading Before Bed – Benefits:
If you struggle shutting down your thoughts and worries of everyday life, reading can be a great tool for you to use. When your mind is activated and focusing on what you are reading, your body begins to relax. While you are tuned into your book, your mind is no longer focused on the anxieties of the day. All of this helps your mind and body to relax, which is key to preparing for a deep nights sleep.
Reading is a low stimulus activity that you can enjoy before going to sleep. No one is going to sleep well in a loud bumping nightclub, cutting down on lights and sound is important for getting to sleep. However, going from full on activity straight to a pitch dark bedroom can be jarring and difficult to turn off your busy mind. Having a wind down period can help you to slowdown and get ready for sleeping. Reading can be a relaxing, low stimulus activity that can inform and entertain while you prepare for sleep.
Brushing your teeth and washing your face before bed are not only great for your daily hygiene, but they are also rituals that help your body prepare to go to sleep. When you have actions that you do every night before you go to sleep, it helps to prepare your mind and body to get in the mood to go to sleep.
Reading is a relaxing and quiet activity that requires very little from your body other than holding up your book and keeping your eyes open. If you add reading into your routine, it can help your mind send signals to the body that it is time to sleep.
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If you are wanting to retain information, reading before bed can be a great tool to use. Your mind catalogs and puts information into memory during the REM cycles of your sleep. So if you are a student who is studying for a big test or you are simply want to gain knowledge, reading before bed can be a great way to help you retain that information.
Reading is also helpful for brain health. The more you stretch and use your memory, the stronger it will be. Reading before bed has been proven to help prevent and delay the affects of dementia.
Avoid Downfalls of Technology
We often think of melatonin as a vitamin that you can take in order to help you get to sleep. While this is true, it is naturally a hormone your produces in darkness to tell your body it is time to go to sleep. When you are looking at bright screens like a TV, laptop, or smart phone, this is going to prevent your body from producing melatonin naturally. Therefore making it harder for you to fall asleep.
Replacing those sleep disruptive activities with reading can be greatly beneficial. When you use low lighting to read on a traditional paper book or an unlit reading tablet, your body is more likely to start producing melatonin.
Reading is such a fun tool for kids learning and imagination. Bedtime stories are such a great way to get a child interested in reading at a young age. Nighttime reading is a classic bedtime ritual for many parents and children.
Kids have a much harder time picking up on sleep signals that their bodies are trying to give them. Slowing down can be difficult for lots of kids. Why would you ever want to sleep when there is so much playing that needs to be done? Reading is a great way to calm down your kids and get them to slow down and ready to sleep.
Bonding and Independent Sleeping
When it comes to bedtime a lot of parents struggle with getting their kids to be independent sleepers. They want to sleep in the same bed with their parents, because of the security they get from their parents being around while they fall asleep is very comforting.
Night time stories can be a great way to spend quality bonding time and help them to sleep by themselves. Being read a book is calming and comforting. As you sit and read together they are getting undivided attention and cuddle time.
This can be a bonding experience and gives the child a feeling of safety and security. Often times kids are more tired than they realize and as soon as you get them to slow down, be quiet and get comfortable, they will be asleep before you are even done reading.
Reading Before Bed – Downfalls:
Be mindful of what you are choosing to read before bed. Nighttime is meant to be calming and relaxing, so know what content is good for you to be reading and what isn’t. If you are prone to nightmares, be sure to stay away from thrillers and horror genres. This will not help you get to sleep or stay asleep throughout the night. If you are wanting to learn more about politics, but reading about it starts to make your blood boil, maybe reading that content before bed isn’t the best idea either.
The key is to read content that puts you in an intrigued yet calm state of mind. You of course want to be interested in what you are reading, but if a book is too captivating, this can also cause complications. If you are an avid reader it is highly likely that you have experienced the inability to put a book down, because you just have to read one more chapter before you go to bed. Until, inevitably you have stayed up all night reading and now face the next day exhausted.
This is something you should also look out for with children. As your kids get older and start reading on their own, we suggest tracking what they are reading at night, to ensure it isn’t too frightening or stimulating. Nightmares can be a big issue for young readers. Also, while it is wonderful to have a child enthralled with a new book series, it can also lead to late nights and lack of sleep.
For many couples the time right before bed is dedicated to quality time together. Getting alone time isn’t always easy, especially as a parent. So any time you can get alone together is precious. If you are reading by yourself it can detract from that special time together.
However, if you are wanting the best of both worlds, we suggest trying to read together. Whether you are reading the same books separately and talking about them later, or reading out loud to each other. This can be a great way to get the benefits of reading at night, while also spending quality time together.
To read, or not to read:
Overall the benefits of reading before bed highly out way any potential downfalls. Reading is so good for the mind body and soul that it is truly difficult to make any argument against it. If you are struggling with a particular book being too engaging or stressful, try reading a different genre.
Or if you are wanting to spend time with your significant other, try reading together. Just remember to keep the lights as low as you can comfortably read in and try to avoid reading on screens that light up. We hope you enjoy reading and sleep well.