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Reading Your Way to Better Sleep

Do you find yourself lying awake at night, unable to quiet your mind enough to fall asleep? You’re not alone. Approximately 30% of adults experience short-term insomnia, and 10% suffer from chronic insomnia. Sleep troubles negatively impact both mental and physical health. While practices like meditation, limiting blue light exposure, and medication can improve sleep, one of the simplest and most effective remedies is reading. Developing a consistent pre-bed reading routine trains your brain for restful sleep.

Why Reading Helps You Fall Asleep Faster

Mentally engaging reading material captures your full attention, distracting from the worries, to-do lists, and anxiety that keep you up. As you become immersed in the book, your mind stops its restless ruminating. Reading also triggers relaxation by lowering heart rate and stimulating release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin. Getting absorbed in a book signals your brain and body that it’s time for calm and rest.

Darkness + Reading = Sleepiness

Our circadian rhythm is wired to make us feel drowsy when it gets dark outside. Reading a real printed book in a dimly lit room before bed mimics those natural conditions that tell our brains it’s time for sleep. Backlit tablets have the opposite effect, disrupting circadian rhythms. But opening an actual book when getting into bed tricks your brain into releasing sleep hormones.

Reading Reduces Stress and Eases Anxiety

Too much daytime stress and anxiety often manifest as inability to fall asleep at night. The act of reading helps relieve muscle tension and quiet mental chatter linked to stress and anxiety. Escaping into a story world eases worried thoughts about real life. Less stress equals better sleep.

Reading Is Immersive

An engrossing book pulls your focus into the story and away from your daily troubles, making it easier to shut off your mind at bedtime. The immersive imaginary world occupies your thoughts so you’re not fixated on rehashing the day’s events or making tomorrow’s to-do list. You can’t ruminate when absorbed in a gripping novel.

Reading Regulates Your Breathing

Following the flow of sentences as you read requires steady, rhythmic breathing. Focusing on breathing while reading keeps it slow and even. Regulated respiration sends signals to your brain and nervous system that it’s time to unwind. Proper breathing alignment is also crucial for sleep.

Reading Print Books Reduces Blue Light

Blue light from phones, tablets, computers and TVs suppresses melatonin and delays sleep. Reading an actual printed book eliminates that sleep-disrupting blue light. Having a real book to associate with bed tricks your brain into releasing hormones to make you feel sleepy.

Reading Reduces Stress Hormones

Levels of the stress hormone cortisol start decreasing up to an hour before bed for normal sleepers. Reading helps lower cortisol as your body moves into a relaxed state, preparing you for sleep. Lower cortisol along with more melatonin tells your body it’s time to sleep.

Reading Makes You Comfortable in Bed

The more time you spend awake in bed reading, the more your brain will associate being in bed with falling asleep. Building an engrained pre-sleep reading habit trains your mind and body that it’s bedtime. You start feeling sleepy just from getting into bed and opening your book.

Reading Fiction Boosts Empathy and Emotional Intelligence

Immersing in novels, especially literary fiction, enhances empathy and emotional functioning which allows better self-reflection and processing of the day’s events. Less time ruminating equals faster sleep onset. Reading fiction provides perspective.

Reading is one of the cheapest, most accessible, and effective natural sleep aids available. Establish a 30-60 minute reading routine before bed and your mind will quickly learn that reading means sleep is coming. Don’t underestimate the power of books as a tool for better sleep and a healthy circadian rhythm. Replace screens with books before bed and see your sleep improve.