How Reading Before Bedtime Can Help You Sleep, Dream And Be Better

by Jayne Helfrick

I’ve gotten used to falling asleep to noise. Screams and chainsaw sound effects lull me to sleep.  Confessions of love and murder inspire my dreams.

The songs played at the ending credits sing me lullabies. It’s not that I even enjoy most of the shows I watch, I just like how they effortlessly put me to sleep.

I know I’m not alone in treating television as a sedative.

It’s pretty common to binge-watch episode after episode of a show the day it’s released online. But, I wasn’t even watching; I was just trying to zone out.

But, I’ve been having a problem that's been occurring for quite some time now: I always feel tired. I go to bed early, and I wake up tired.

I sleep nine full hours a night, and I’m still tired. I drink coffee all day, and I still feel tired. I eat my vegetables, exercise regularly and drink lots of water, but I’m still tired.

So, I made a resolution to turn off all electronics at least an hour before bedtime, and, more specifically, to stop watching television.

I decided to go back to my bookworm roots and read every night before bed again.

There’s something really intoxicating about getting lost in someone else’s world for an hour or two before you get lost in your own dreams.

As a kid, I wasn’t allowed a TV in my room. I didn’t have a computer, so I would spend my nights reading books.

That was how I grew to love the art of storytelling, and it's also one of the first ways I became comfortable interacting with people who were different from me (even if it was just through the written word).

I learned a lot about people, where they came from, what they could go through and how they may or may not cope through reading books.

I learned that words, to me, could inspire and connect people.

It was something I didn’t always have in my own daily interactions, and I met people through stories.

Science is on my side, too. Reading is a hobby that allows you to get lost, and it helps you be a better person.

Studies have shown those who read more fiction improve their ability to empathize with other people.

It makes sense, as reading often forces us to put ourselves in the minds of others so we can better understand their actions, sufferings and feelings.

Stories simulate the same social interactions we have in our real lives, and they help us develop skills to better interact with others.

Reading at night is something to feel good about before you go to sleep because, in a way, you’ve made a connection with someone else in that 30 or 60 minutes.

Reading also lowers stress levels quicker and more effectively than other common stress reducers, like walking or listening to music.

Reading for six minutes eases the tension of stress in the human body.

Unlike other methods of stress relief, reading is an active engagement that still allows you to lose yourself within another world, if only for a brief period of time.

The faster you can de-stress, the faster you can fall asleep. Rather than carrying around all the stress of the day when you crawl into bed, picking up a book allows you to let go of the things hindering our minds and bodies from relaxing and sleeping well.

It’s a way to forget about the stress of the day without completely zoning out of existence.

I love reading before bed because it creates a routine. I can brush my teeth, pull down the sheets and chill out with a book.

I stop worrying about my own problems because I'm focusing on what is happening to other people in their worlds.

It is one of the few ways to both relax and calm yourself while still getting an intellectual workout.

Reading is an exercise for your brain, so even if you are getting lost in a story, you’re still constantly improving one of the most important muscles of your body.

In fact, the more you read, the better your cognitive skills and the more likely you are to retain information and have longer-lasting memories.

I’ve noticed in the last few days, I've turned off the computer and put my phone out of reach and I fall asleep earlier and faster.

The sleep is better, but I also fall asleep feeling more accomplished.

Rather than wasting my night watching another episode of another show I don’t really like, I give my brain a workout, relieve stress and use my imagination.

I don’t zone out like I do when I watch a show, where I rarely actually empathize with or care about a character.

I guess I'd just rather spend my time relaxing in a productive way.

Books, unlike television shows, make you work for the connections you make. But, once you start, it won't feel like work at all.