There are many studies showing the strong link between bedtime reading and sleeping well. Whatever age group you are in, reading may just be the best natural sleep aid that you can do anywhere. For many parents who struggle to balance career and kids, reading has been the go-to way to lull kids off to sleep for generations. But did you know why it’s so effective? And did you know that bedtime reading doesn’t only work for kids?
Here are the top 4 ways that Mindlab International research proves bedtime reading is a wonderful sleep aid for anyone.
Nurture the Imagination
As we grow up in this challenging society, we are often taught that our imaginations are something to get over, to leave behind. We are told that we have to grow up and “adult”, putting away childish things. Sadly, this means losing our imaginations, which give us such a wonderful natural benefit – the ability to travel beyond our physical realities.
For some, there is simply no more time to read for pleasure because life is so full of household chores and tasks for work plus trying to scrape together as much family time as possible. But no matter the reason, we have lost such an important part of us, and this is hurting us.
If you ask an adult who likes to read, they will likely tell you that bedtime reading helps them sleep – particularly actual paper books and not digital ones. And they will also probably say that as a sleep aid, they prefer rereading the classics from their childhood to picking up adult fiction. The reason for this is the ease with which these childhood loves reawaken the imagination.
When you engage your dormant imagination, it allows your brain to shift totally from adult concerns to that relaxing mode only truly possible in carefree childhood – and we all need this complete disconnect from worries to truly rest.
Let Go of Stress
Bedtime reading is a great sleep aid because it is so good at taking us away from reality for a bit so that we can let go of mental, physical and emotional tension. Stress prevents many of us from fully resting at night, and reading makes it possible to stop thinking about troubles and have-tos by bringing us into another world.
Cognitive neuropsychologist David Lewis, a key member of the University of Sussex Mindlabs study, says that the simple act of reading before sleeping every night can reduce stress levels by almost 70 percent. That’s a tremendous amount. The Sleep Council supports this conclusion with research that shows better sleep among almost 40% of people who regularly read before bedtime.
We also know that more people would sleep even better if they made a simple change to the type of material they read – avoid emails and news articles and keep to stories far removed from daily life, like those childhood classics.Arranging your sleeping area with comfortable bedding like bamboo pillowcases and sheets can make things even more comfortable. Try using 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.
Take Comfort in Tales
Stories – even though they are mostly fiction – are known to help people to relate to others better and to develop empathy – understanding others’ feelings as we find common ground and build rapport. This then also helps us to feel that we are not alone in our experiences, and that there are others out there who care about the challenges that we face. They may be common issues that most people would tell us to just get over, or perhaps deep troubles that make us feel isolated. Whatever the case, stories have long been an effective way of facing difficulties and dealing with the things that matter to us in a safe context. Stories reassure us that the things that scare us can be overcome, and releasing fear is a most effective sleep aid. As we sleep, being transported to a safe place away from the conscious world of worries where we feel we have lost power, we are safe.
Form Good Habits
Bedtime rituals are themselves a marvelous sleep aid that can greatly improve sleep quality on top of helping you to get to sleep faster each night. The habit of reading before bedtime in particular is a wonderful ritual to follow for the above reasons. Reading will become a signal to your brain that it is time to cease all activity and rest.
Bedtime reading is a particularly effective sleep aid for people who cannot easily follow other more popularly recommended sleep time rituals. They may be unable to make their rooms quiet or dark, for instance, due to varying circumstances, or buy expensive machines and other things. Some people can’t go to sleep at the same time every night because they work odd hours or on shifting schedules. Other people might not be able to sleep at night at all because they work the graveyard shift and therefore battle daily with confused circadian rhythms. These people can use a simple and convenient sleep aid like bedtime reading to create their own sleep signaling routine.
One Simple Sleep Aid, Four Powerful Effects
Reading is a very easy, inexpensive, and natural bedtime routine that has four powerful sleep aid benefits – not even counting the many other powerfully positive effects that it has on the mind, and in turn, on the body.
Making bedtime reading a sleep ritual is one of the best things you can do for your well being – you AND the kids, and granny and gramps, too!