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Reading Before Bed: What You Should Know

by BetterSleep
Oct 22 2022 • 7 min read

Reading is an essential part of learning and exploring. Picking up reading for leisure as a habit can help with your memory, communication skills, speech, creativity, problem-solving, and more. While reading during the day is a good practice that many people have, reading at night can be just as beneficial.

People of all ages can enjoy many benefits of reading at night. There are also risks of reading at night, depending on how it is done.

Benefits of Reading Before Bed

Reading before bed carries many benefits, some of which can even promote good well-being in the long run.

Decreases Stress Levels

High levels of stress are known to lead to mental health issues. Reading before bed can help decrease stress in the same way that meditation and yoga do. When the body is high in cortisol, the stress hormone, it affects melatonin production. Melatonin production is a necessary factor in sleep.

When battling stress, anxiety, or depression, the mind is fixated on things that occurred throughout the day, what you think may happen, or maybe something that happened long ago. Reading a good book can help take your mind off these things, simultaneously reducing the high stress they cause.

If practiced long enough, the stress relief will be more than temporary because you’ve trained your mind to no longer focus on those thoughts.

Improves Sleep Quality

Lack of sleep is a problem for people with sleep disorders like insomnia. People with insomnia may find it difficult to fall asleep and stay asleep for a long time. Grabbing a book before bed helps de-stimulate the brain.

One study found that people who read before bed improved their sleep quality compared to those who did not. Reading before bed helps increase melatonin production by relaxing the body and relieving the thoughts that keep you awake.

The act of reading itself can also make you tired and promote sleep. Moving the eye muscles from side to side and focusing on each sentence in your book for an extended time causes this.

Improves Concentration

In the same way that focusing on the sentences and exercising your eye muscles while reading can make you sleepy, it also helps improve your concentration skills. Instead of going back and forth on things like social media and news outlets, reading a book is a great alternative. Other entertainment outlets contain diverse topics, and the conversations are hardly sound.

Choosing a book to read instead helps your mind get used to the consistency, which improves your focus and concentration. Practicing over time can help you focus on other things throughout your day, like work or studying.

Boosts Brain Power

The brain is a muscle, and just like the rest of the muscles in your body, it needs to be worked out to stay healthy. Neurologically, reading works your brain more than watching something or looking at an image. Reading before bed can increase your brain’s ability to do your daily tasks more efficiently.

Reading before bed also decreases the chance of degenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s is linked to people with less brain activity. People who exercise their brains by reading, doing puzzles, and playing chess are 2.5 times less likely to develop diseases affecting the brain and its functions.

Helps with Creativity

Reading allows you to dive into different worlds. When you read a book, you can see things from different perspectives and attain new ways of thinking. Parts of your brain are also more active.

Electronic or Paper Books?

Many people enjoy the feel of a paper book. Being able to flip through pages makes navigation easier for some. For others, writing notes, highlighting text, and doodling in the corners of pages are what they enjoy. While this feeling may bring comfort and nostalgia, times have changed, and so has the way people read.

Many people read electronic books. E-books are convenient because you can take them just about anywhere. As long as you have an electronic device, you can read anywhere, and it does not take up any extra space.

While they may ease the burden in certain areas, reading a book on an electronic device before bed is not the best choice.

Negative Effects of E-books Before Bed

If you are trying to add reading before bed, you should avoid using an electronic device. Using an electronic device before bed can be more distracting than having a paper book.

Reduces REM Sleep

Rapid eye movement sleep plays a big role in memory, brain development, dreaming, processing emotions, and more. Electronic devices extend the amount of time that is required for you to fall asleep. Sometimes, these devices can disrupt brain waves so much that you cannot stay asleep. People receiving less sleep do not receive enough REM sleep throughout the night.

Slows Down Melatonin Production

Melatonin is known as the sleepy hormone. Electronics emit blue light when they are used. While some of these devices may offer different settings to decrease the emission of blue light, none have a 0% emission rate. Blue light affects the body’s ability to produce melatonin. Any level of blue light can disrupt your sleep and should be avoided before bed.

Brings Distractions

If you’re like most people, there are many apps on your electronic devices that bring notifications. E-books can come with a world of distractions and decrease your lack of focus. You may be tempted to use social media, even while reading. Hard-copy books eliminate distractions, so you don’t have to worry about your mind wandering.

Adding Books to Your Sleep Routine

Your sleep routine is an important part of preparing your body for sleep. Having a proper sleep routine can help relax your mind and body. This routine should be personalized based on the things that help you relax. So, be sure that you create it based on what you need and not what other people would prefer you do.

Some common things that people include in their nightly routine are:

  • Taking a warm bath
  • Drinking tea
  • Stretching
  • Meditation
  • Listening to soothing music or sounds
  • Putting away electronics
  • Adjusting the lighting
  • Reading a book

Reading to Your Child Before Bedtime

It is never too early to start reading to your kids before bedtime. Some women even do it while they are pregnant. Besides the fact that a good bedtime story is great for bonding, there are other benefits reading to children before bed contains:

Expanding Their Vocabulary

Children need to hear a word up to 12 times before using it independently. Many parents may read the same book to their children every night. Once your child gets used to hearing the same words from bedtime stories, they will be able to use them in their daily vocabulary.

Improves Their Reading Skills

Like many other things, reading is a matter of practice and how often you do something. A person who reads often may find it easier to pronounce words and have better sentence flow. When you read a book with your children at night, you help them be happy to use it during the day.

Sparks Imagination and Creativity

Children can only learn what they are exposed to. When you read with your children, you open up endless possibilities for them to tap into their creativity. Kids are likely to ask questions out of curiosity, but this gives you a chance to teach them about certain topics and introduce them to things they can use later in life.

Encourages Independent Reading

Reading benefits people of every age, but this habit comes easy when encouraged at a young age. In the same way you start your kids off in little league sports at a young age, you should do the same with reading. This will likely encourage them to read independently when you’re not around.

Bedtime stories also relax their bodies and minds to help them sleep faster. Kids can sometimes have a lot of energy left in them at the end of the day. Reading before bed creates a more calming environment that will positively affect their sleep. You may even find that it helps you forget about some of your own troubles as well.

How to Add Reading Books to Your Sleep Routine

If you’re new to reading at night, it may be difficult to stick with the practice. Understand that starting a new practice may be difficult for anyone. There are ways to incorporate it so that you can ease your way into reading before bed.

Pick a Consistent Book

Picking a good book to read every night will help keep your attention. This way, keeping up with the practice of reading before bed doesn’t feel like a chore. Some people may even find that rotating between 1 to 3 books every week or month keeps them engaged. This way, they don’t get accustomed to one book.

Try Audiobooks

Some books may have an audio version. Audiobooks are great for when you’re too tired in the evening and would rather engage in reading by listening. Audiobooks are just as effective as physical books because the focus and concentration are still there.

Start Small

Don’t feel the pressure to finish books quickly when doing bedtime reading. Comparing yourself to the reading pace of someone else may discourage you from reading on your own. If you’re new to reading before bed, you can start with 20 minutes of reading or until you can fall asleep.


Falling asleep doesn’t have to be a complicated or lengthy process. You can have improved sleep quality by including reading in your bedtime routine. The BetterSleep app has stories that can help you get restful sleep.

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