Reading Your Way to Better Sleep

Do you find yourself tossing and turning at night, unable to fall asleep no matter how tired you feel? You’re not alone. Approximately 30% of adults report some symptoms of insomnia, ranging from occasional sleep troubles to chronic insomnia. Sleep issues can negatively impact your physical and mental health. Luckily, there are many natural remedies that can help you achieve more restful sleep. One simple solution is reading before bedtime. Discover how reading can be an effective way to wind down your mind and relax your body for better sleep.

How Reading Promotes Sleep

Reading requires focus and attention, which directs your brain away from active thoughts, worries, stressors and distractions from the day. This mental diversion allows your mind and body to relax. Getting lost in a book helps quiet ruminating thoughts that can keep you awake. Reading also triggers your brain to release hormones like serotonin and melatonin, which are associated with calmness and sleep regulation. The blue light emitted from TVs, phones and tablets before bed can actually disrupt your circadian rhythm and make it harder to fall asleep. Reading a physical book avoids this issue. Lastly, reading calms your body down by slowing your heart rate and easing muscle tension. The combined mental and physical relaxation from reading sets the stage for restorative sleep.

What to Read Before Bed

The most sleep-inducing reading materials are books with indirect plot lines, moderate pacing and little emotionally charged or shocking content. Predictable stories allow your mind to relax into the narrative without focusing too hard. Try reading fiction books, poetry, spiritual texts or lightweight non-fiction. Avoid suspense, horror and overly technical books that are mentally stimulating. The topics you read about can also impact how relaxed you feel. Pick positive, happy or nostalgic stories rather than disturbing material. Reading on spiritual themes, nature or biographies of inspirational figures creates a peaceful mood. Your childhood favorites or a beloved classic are great choices for pre-sleep reading too.

Develop a Soothing Reading Routine

To maximize the sleep benefits of reading, establish a consistent reading routine about 30 to 60 minutes before your target bedtime. Make reading the last stimulating activity you do before getting ready for bed. Get comfortable and cozy in bed propped up on pillows. Some people enjoy a cup of caffeine-free herbal tea while reading to relax. As you read each night, your mind will associate reading with preparing for sleep. You’ll find you get drowsy more quickly. For maximum relaxation and to reduce eyestrain, choose a print book instead of reading on an e-reader or tablet. If the room is dark, use a soft reading light that won’t shine in your eyes or emit blue light. Let the outside world fade away as you get transported into the calming pages of your book.

Replace Screen Time with Book Time

Many people watch TV or scroll on their phones and tablets right up until lights out. The stimulation from these devices makes it harder to fall asleep and reduces sleep quality. Make a positive change by swapping at least 30 minutes of screen time for peaceful pre-sleep reading. This simple routine can train your mind and body to unwind, slow down and prepare for restful sleep. Test it out for a couple weeks and see if reading before bed makes it easier to fall asleep, stay asleep and wake feeling more refreshed. Just a few chapters of the right book can transport you to dreamland.

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