Why Reading Before Sleep Is a Good Idea
By Paul Rothbart
Having a nightly routine to wind-down, relax, and prepare sleep is a good idea. In fact, for many people, it is a necessity for good sleep. Science has discovered many helpful nighttime habits that are now touted as being helpful. These include no late night snacking, light exercise, meditation, and a hot bath or shower. All can be very effective. But there is an old-school, time-honored habit that is no less helpful to sleeping well. Reading before bed always has and still does work. Here are some of the ways a book, magazine, or newspaper can aid sleep.
This is the obvious reasoning for reading in bed and it will aid good sleep. Reading, especially fiction, shifts your consciousness into another, more abstract plane. Your mind fills with images created by the words in front of your. This is like a prelude to dreaming. It's why children respond so well to bedtime stories. Getting out of the real world mentally reduces stress and promotes relaxation. This works best if the material is light and/or fun. My wife likes British romance novels, while I tend toward the Star Wars books.
It Can Boost Creativity
Research has shown that reading before sleep boosts creativity and increases passion for projects. The reading material does not have to be related to these projects in any way. Engaging the brain before sleep is giving it a workout. It enables us to see people, situations, and the world in different ways and to find more creative solutions to problems.
Smart phones, tablets, and social media can be huge distractions and have diminished the concentration of a multitude of people. Putting these away at bedtime and spending that time actually reading, not glossing over social media posts will enhance concentration and train the mind to focus. It is OK to use a tablet or e-reader. Disconnect it from Wi-Fi to avoid the distraction of notifications and focus on a good book. When using a tablet, it is also important to use the blue screen setting to shield your eyes from the blue light that will make sleep difficult.
Empathy comes from the ability to see things from another person's perspective. Reading fiction places you into the culture and experiences of other people. You learn to appreciate alternative ways of living and this is very helpful to making you a more empathetic person. This is a useful trait to have.
With current technology, there are many new ways to improve sleep. Sometimes the old ways are the best ways. Reading at bedtime each night can help you sleep better, as well as provide benefits that carry over into your waking hours. There's a lot to be said for curling up with a good book.
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