Why You Should Be Reading Before Bed
by Charlotte Ahlin
Teenage girl enjoying reading a book in bed
Shot with Canon R5
Imgorthand/E+/Getty Images

What does your typical bedtime routine look like? Do you snuggle under your recently washed sheets around 10:00 pm, a mug of warm milk in one hand and a Tolstoy novel in the other? Or do you flop into bed between one and five in the morning, eyes bloodshot, clutching your phone to your heart as you desperately scroll through photos of baby sloths? We all struggle to stick to a healthy bedtime routine. But if you can make it to bed with your favorite book, you might have a better night's sleep. Here are just a few of the reasons why you should read before bed.

Now I know what you're going to say, book-lovers: "Every time I read before bed, I end up staying up until dawn finishing my book! That can't be good for my skin and general temperament!" And no, medically speaking, it's not a great idea to read instead of sleeping. But if you can stick to just a chapter or three at bedtime, it could actually be good for your health.

So pry your phone out of your trembling hands about an hour before bed, and settle down with a good book (hot milk optional):


You’ll retain more

When you sleep, you brain dumps all of your short term memory goo into the long term memory goo-reserves (in a manner of speaking). That means that the things you read right before bed stick with you better in the long run. Read a book before drifting off, and you won't forget any minor plot points.


It’s screen-free time

We all know that we'll sleep better if we cut down on screens right before bed. And yet... most of us still fall asleep with our phones/laptops/video calculators pressed lovingly against our faces. But if you set aside bedtime for reading an analog, paper book, you get that rare screen-free time that your eyes desperately need.


It’s a calming ritual

If you have trouble getting to sleep, many doctors and bloggers will recommend a calming ritual to perform every night before bed. Reading is the perfect kind of ritual: it forces you to lie down and cut out the distractions, it's quiet, and it doesn't get boring because you're always reading something new.


You can’t skip it

Unless there is something terribly upsetting going on in your life right now, you go to sleep every single day. You can't skip bedtime more than once in a very great while without totally falling apart at the seams. So, if you make a habit out of reading before bed, you'll set aside time for reading every day, and end up reading more books than ever before.


You’ll de-stress

Reading is shown to reduce stress levels. And I don't know about you, but as soon as I get under the covers I immediately start ruminating on all of the things I have to do and all of the times I embarrassed myself in the third grade. Reading will ease some of your classic nighttime anxiety, so you can actually fall asleep instead of staring and the ceiling and worrying about honey bee deaths.


You’ll have better dreams

Do I have a very scientific source for this? Maybe not, but I've always found that whatever I read or watch right before bed heavily affects my dreams. So maybe steer clear of the Stephen King late at night, but feel free to read about exciting fantasy realms that you'd like to visit in your sleep.


You’ll be more focused

Not only does reading boost your concentration in general, reading before bed will help you concentrate more on whatever it is you're reading in the moment. You won't be battling ten thousand other distractions. You don't have to deal with other commuters. No one will (hopefully) stop you to ask what you're reading. Reading before bed is one of the few guaranteed moments of reading in peace.


You can read in privacy

It's a little easier to be emotionally open when you're reading in your own bed, and not at your work computer while your co-worker chews with their mouth open. You're free to laugh or ugly cry or Google word definitions to your heart's content when you're safe in your own bed.


It’ll help you sleep

It's true: reading before bed gives you a more restful night's sleep. Specifically, reading a book made of genuine paper (sorry, kindle-heads) will calm your brain and help you transition peacefully into dreamland without any glaring screens. So put aside that Netflix show based on a book, and pick up an actual book tonight before you hit the sack.