Reading Before Bed Could Help Your Sleep, Your Mental Health, And Even Your Bank Balance

11 September 2019
Books, Sleeping, Mental Health, Grooming
Image: iStock

It might be time to start incorporating a book or two in your nighttime routine

Sleep, it’s the reason we get out of bed in the morning. The promise of an early night, fluffed pillow, and high thread-count sheets are enough to leave us salivating, but as anyone will be quick to tell you, it’s a lot harder to make a reality.

In our hyper-connected, perpetually busy lives, sleep has become something of a hot commodity. It’s rare. These days, we’re lucky to get through the work week averaging five or six hours a night, which makes the recommendation of nine hours a night almost perverse. Who are these people averaging that amount of pillow time a night? And more importantly, how are they doing it?

The truth is, we probably all can do a lot better with our snooze time. If we really paid more due diligence to getting in the hours, we would find the time.

But sadly, sleep doesn’t rank too highly on the list of priorities. Not when there are Instagram feeds to check, YouTube channels to watch, and a Netflix homepage to scroll through, hovering the mouse above each tile juuuustttt long enough to get a whiff of a theme tune or cinematic score before we continue on our quest to watch absolutely nothing.

It might be time to change that. According to a recent survey from mattress and sleep product review site Sleep Junkie, reading before bed holds a number of benefits that transcend that of merely enhancing our vocabulary.

In their survey of 1,000 people, the study authors reviewed sleep habits and bedtime routines, and it was found that those who read in bed at night not only had greater relaxation, but also found that it reduces stress, induces sleep, centres the mind, improves sleep quality, and even helped them out in the workplace.

Participants who read in bed at night range from those who read once a week to every night: 11 per cent of respondents read one or two nights a week, 12 per cent read three or four, 7 per cent read five or six, and 8 per cent read every single night.

Of those who read a few pages a couple of nights a week, the average time spent reading came out to be 43 minutes.

Given that nearly three quarters of bedtime readers believe they’d have a harder time falling asleep if they weren’t reading before bed, here’s why you should be incorporating reading in your nighttime routine.

Saving money

If you’re looking to earn a higher income and save money, you might want to take up reading before bed. As the study indicates, bedtime readers reported an annual income of just under $40,000 annually. Non-readers fell shorter, reporting yearly earnings of just over $36,000.

The study’s authors suggest this might be because reading before bed helps to improve stress and long-term memory, a mindset that could help you perform better at work and in other areas which could just help provide some leverage when you’re asking for that raise.

Health benefits

Interestingly, the survey suggests that bedtime readers are 12 per cent more likely to eat a healthy diet, 14 per cent more likely to engage in “healthy recreation,” and 8 per cent more likely to keep regular doctor/dentist appointments.

Another key consideration is emotional intelligence, something reading is known to improve. Research published in the journal Science, indicates that the development of empathy is easier if you read literary fiction before bed as you’re more likely to understand others’ emotions and mental processes, thereby improving the quality of your own relationships.

Mental health

When asked if they believe they “get the most out of themselves,” responses from the survey indicated that it was the bookworm that strongly agreed, with 79 per cent of nighttime responding positively, compared to just 59 per cent of non-readers.

Furthermore, 70 per cent of bedtime readers responded positively to questions asking if they lived life to the fullest, compared to 58 per cent of non-readers.

Perhaps in an effort to emphasise just how important reading is for mental health, practitioners in Britain have begun prescribing book reading to patients who suffer from mild to moderate depression and anxiety, and many of these patients report an alleviation of their symptoms as a result.

How you read matters

It should be noted however, that in our technology-obsessed day and age, how we read has changed. For some, nothing replaces a tangible novel that you can lie there reading, highlighting at your own leisure (god help you if it’s a library loan though), and which you can attest upon completion as being a real “page-turner”.

But it’s 2019, and we also know that this isn’t the preference for a number of people. For some, the phone or tablet is now the only way to read everything, ranging from news stories and articles, through to novels and cookbooks.

While reading in bed does have a number of benefits, for those who read in bed via a phone or tablet, 32 per cent said they struggled to fall asleep.

Given that electronic devices emit a specific type of light that stimulates the brain, it makes sense then that this would delay the body’s circadian rhythm and thus disrupt sleeping patterns.

For those who read on e-book devices, only 25 per cent reported having trouble falling asleep. This is likely because these devices utilise a special technology, often termed “electronic paper”, that’s designed to mimic the appearance of ink on paper.

So, there you have it. Reading not only makes you a smarter, more empathetic human, but it can also help you sleep better (if you’re doing it the right way) and lead to better mental health and work performance.

Rather than endlessly scrolling through the Instagram feed and tapping away on numerous stories of people you hardly know gallivanting in Europe, it might just be time to raid that personal library of yours.

Via GQ Australia