Many studies show that there is a strong connection between reading at bedtime and getting a good night’s sleep. No matter your age, reading is perhaps the best natural sleep aid there is. For some tired parents, reading is a great way to lull kids off to sleep. But did you know why? What’s more, it doesn’t only work on the young. Here are the top reasons from research done by Mindlab International on bedtime reading as a sleep aid.
As we grow older living in this society, the imagination becomes something to overcome. We have to grow up and leave childish things behind. We have to do adult things in adult ways. Sadly, this means that we lose the natural benefits of that wondrous and uniquely human characteristic - the ability to travel beyond our physical realities.
Maybe it’s just that we no longer have time to read for pleasure with lives that are filled to the brim with household chores and tasks for work and trying to pack in as much family time as we can in between. Whatever the reason, we have lost that very important part of us, and are hurting ourselves in the process.
Most adults will tell you that bedtime reading helps them sleep - especially if it’s an actual paper book and not a digital one. And most of these people will tell you that they prefer rereading childhood classics to picking up adult fiction. There’s a reason for this - the easy reawakening of the imagination.
Engaging the dormant imagination first allows the brain to make a complete shift from the grown-up worries of life’s challenges to a relaxing mode that we all need to truly rest.
Reading is a great sleep aid because it efficiently takes us away from reality for a little while so we can release the mental, physical and emotional tension that keeps us from fully resting at night.
According to cognitive neuropsychologist David Lewis who spearheaded the University of Sussex Mindlabs study, simply reading before sleeping every night can reduce stress by almost 70 percent. The Sleep Council supports this with research showing that almost 40% of people who regularly read before bedtime sleep very well. Perhaps more of them would sleep better by simply making an adjustment in what they read, staying away from emails and news and sticking to stories that are far removed from daily life.
To boost stress relief as you prepare for bed, try outfitting your sleeping area with comfortable bedding like bamboo pillowcases and sheets. Use a conforming pillow as well to rest your back, shoulders and head on so you don't put additional strain on your body while reading.
Stories help us to relate to others better and to develop empathy - understanding and sharing others’ feelings. This, in turn, circles back and helps us to feel that we are not alone, and that people care about the issues that we face.
Whether they are common issues that most people will just tell us to get over or problems that make us feel isolated, stories are a way of talking about things that matter to us in a safe way and reassuring us that what we fear can be dealt with. And again, that as we sleep - being removed from the conscious world, losing awareness and control over what’s happening - we are safe.
Finally, simply having a bedtime ritual is in itself a sleep aid that can do wonders for your sleep quality. Developing the habit of reading before bedtime becomes a signal to the brain that it’s time to wind down and get some rest.
Bedtime reading is an especially helpful sleep aid for those who are unable to maintain other sleep time rituals due to varying circumstances. For instance, some may not be able to go to sleep at the same time every night because of shifting schedules. Others may not sleep at night at all because they work the graveyard shift. Yet others may be powerless to control noise in their environment or drink relaxing beverages to help them sleep.
Whatever the reason, people who cannot follow most of the usual sleep aid advice can create their own sleep signal with this bedtime routine.
One Simple Sleep Aid, Four Powerful Effects
Reading is an easy, inexpensive, and natural activity that has four powerful sleep aid benefits - not to mention the multiple other positive effects it can have on the mind, and in turn, on the body.
Make bedtime reading a nightly habit, not just for the kids, but for you as well.